Pubdate: Wed, 2 Dec 2009
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2009 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area
Author: Damian Mann
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - United States)


Jackson County commissioners headed into potentially controversial 
territory Tuesday to pursue land-use regulations that could curb 
large-scale medical marijuana operations.

Responding to complaints from neighbors of medical marijuana gardens, 
the commissioners directed planning and legal staff to craft an 
ordinance that would regulate traffic, noise, smell, visibility of 
the gardens and lights used for growing and prohibit cultivation 
within 1,000 feet of a school.

County legal counsel Frank Hammond told commissioners a local 
ordinance may be legally feasible because state law regulating 
medical marijuana doesn't address land-use issues with gardens.

But there likely would be legal challenges from marijuana advocacy 
groups, he said.

"One of my points is this whole thing would be very controversial," he said.

Some of the concerns could be addressed in Initiative 28, an effort 
that would regulate growers in Oregon and subject them to state 
oversight, said Rep. Peter Buckley, an Ashland Democrat.

Buckley said Initiative 28, which has about half the signatures 
necessary to put it on the November 2010 ballot, could end the 
problems associated with fly-by-night growers.

Buckley is a strong supporter of state medical marijuana laws, but he 
said he is also concerned about the behavior of some growers.

"It is extremely frustrating for me when people who are involved in 
the program as growers don't behave like responsible citizens," he said.

Buckley said the Legislature isn't likely to deal with land-use 
problems associated with medical marijuana when it convenes in 
February for a limited session.

With 2,418 medical marijuana cardholders, Jackson County has the 
third highest number of patients using the drug behind Multnomah and 
Lane counties, according to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

A caregiver can grow up to six mature plants and 18 starts and 
seedlings per patient for up to four patients.

The county cannot create an ordinance that contradicts or is more 
restrictive than the state medical marijuana law, Hammond said.

He suggested commissioners consider regulating marijuana cultivation 
as an agricultural use.

The county leaders wondered whether the nonprofit marijuana gardens 
could be treated as a small business.

Commissioner Jack Walker likened them to an operation that wanted to 
open a rock quarry.

Hammond said that under state law, growers can be reimbursed for 
expenses but can't make a profit like a regular business.

Commissioner C.W. Smith said he is concerned that growers are banding 
together to create large operations that increase traffic and cause 
other issues in neighborhoods.

"It is a quasi-commercial event, even though it is not a 
profit-making one," Smith said. He noted that he doesn't have a 
problem with people who have medical marijuana cards.

Smith said the state should have more oversight of marijuana since it 
is still considered a controlled substance.

Commissioner Dave Gilmour said some of these gardens are a nuisance 
in some neighborhoods, and he thought it appropriate to have some restrictions.

Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national 
organization that has sought to decriminalize marijuana, said most of 
the conflicts with medical marijuana have arisen over dispensaries, 
not the gardens.

In general, he said his organization doesn't have a problem with 
reasonable laws that deal with neighborhood nuisance problems that 
might arise from marijuana gardens.

"There may be some things not solvable by the law," he said. "Living 
with other people in society requires dealing with some level of nuisance."

For instance, a homeowner who lived next to oil fields couldn't shut 
down production just because he didn't like the smell, Mirken said.

He said commissioners are confronting the kind of neighborhood 
concerns local governments face every day.

"They are trying to find a way to solve legitimate legal concerns," he said. 
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