Oregon State Senator Jeff Kruse: 15 Constituents Complaining of Herbicide Poisonings Are Just Druggies


If your dog dies suddenly, your horse goes blind, your 1-month-old baby vomits for 24 hours straight, and you develop a chronic cough, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, diarrhea, and bleeding from the lungs, then, according to Oregon State Senator Jeff Kruse, it’s evidence that you’re just succumbing to the ill effects of your substance abuse and, somehow, your children, pets, and livestock are, too.

Citizens of Southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley have been complaining since 2007 about helicopters spraying herbicides far too close to drinking water sources and residences. In 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rebuked Oregon’s haphazard and shoddy handling of the complaints. But the powerful timber industry continued spraying their forest clear-cuts, sometimes in windy conditions that guaranteed drift into residential and farm areas.

In October 2013, 15 citizens of the Southern Oregon coast town of Cedar Valley complained of health complications after being illegally sprayed with herbicides. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) bungled the investigation and refused for six months to tell the people what exactly they had been sprayed with that was making them so ill.

Eventually the State of Oregon found that a helicopter pilot, Steve Owen, lied to ODA about what he was spraying on clear-cut forests near the citizens of Cedar Valley, claiming to spray only glysophosphate (Monsanto’s popular RoundUp brand herbicide), when he was actually spraying that plus sulfometuron methyl; imazapyr; triclopyr; and 2,4-d ester. Triclopyr is one of the few herbicides absorbed through skin, leading to rash and sensitization. 2,4-d ester is one of the prime ingredients in Agent Orange that has debilitated so many veterans of the Vietnam War where it was sprayed. It’s also highly toxic to dogs.

The result of ODA’s investigation was a settlement, where ODA dropped the $20,000 fine it levied against Steve Owen and his company, Pacific Air Research, in exchange for not disputing that he lied about what he was spraying too close to people, pets, livestock, and drinking water. For actions ODA found to be “gross negligence and willful misconduct,” they also revoked Owen’s commercial pesticide applicator’s license for one year. By this time next year, Owen can re-apply for his spraying license and by this time in 2018, ODA will remove any trace of the incident from its records.

Enter Oregon State Senator Jeff Kruse, who represents the people who have been poisoned from above by timber companies hiring pesticide sprayers like Pacific Air Research. Last week, the Senate heard the third reading of House Bill 3549, a pesticide buffer-zone bill prompted by these aerial poisonings that now awaits the governor’s signature. Senator Kruse rose to give the following statement (emphasis mine):

“Those people of the South Coast who complained,” Kruse said, “I know for a fact that the chemicals sprayed could, in no way, shape or form, could have caused the reactions they (said they) caused.

“I also know, those people have a long history of substances and adult beverages that might have contributed to it,” he added. “The two chemicals sprayed did not cause the reactions they have, could not have killed their dogs. They were herbicides; I know this for an absolute fact.”

It seems like Senator Kruse has more belief in Monsanto than his own constituents. It’s no surprise that as counties in Southern Oregon began petitioning for local bans on genetically-modified (GMO) crops, Senator Kruse was a key co-sponsor of the so-called Monsanto Protection Act in 2013 that overruled any local bans on GMOs. During his elected career of 19 years, Senator Kruse has accepted 54 campaign donations totaling $35,172 from the forestry industry, which perhaps best explains his views. That haul is bested only by the $47,000 he’s accepted from the pharmaceutical and $54,900 from medical industry, which may explain some of his views on medical marijuana.

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on CannabisRadio.com, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland NORML.in 2015.