Pubdate: Fri, 9 Oct 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, Mail Tribune
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Commissioners Say They'll Look at Land-Use Laws, Urge Legislature to
Deal With Grow Operation Complaints, Which Include High Traffic,
Bright Lights

Cultivating medical marijuana is legal, but complaints are growing
from neighbors over the pungent smell, bright lights and traffic at
all hours.

Jackson County commissioners Thursday said they might consider
altering land-use laws to allay these concerns or urging legislators
to address the issue of public nuisance, but they wanted to stay clear
of any actions that would conflict with state laws.

"The thing we came up against is the smell -- it is like being 10 feet
from a skunk," said Shayne Maxwell, a Rogue River resident who has a
neighbor growing medical pot. "It also attracts skunks."

Maxwell, who presented the problem to commissioners and also is on the
county's budget committee, said she supports medical marijuana, but
thinks growing the plants should be subject to the same land-use laws
that govern other activities on properties.

Her neighborhood comprises mostly 2.5-acre rural residential lots and
isn't zoned for farming, she said.

Maxwell said her objection is not to the marijuana, but the smell, the
traffic and the bright grow lights.

"I would do the same thing if there were carrots and they smelled like
that," she said.

She told commissioners she can't go into her backyard or open windows
because the pungent pot smell is overpowering in September and
October, when the plants are ready for harvest.

Commissioners appeared sympathetic, but said current land-use laws
apply to businesses in rural areas, not to nonprofits such as medical
marijuana gardens.

They also wanted to be careful not to write local regulations that
would conflict with state laws over medical marijuana.

The commissioners said the Legislature should be more responsible by
rewriting the medical marijuana law so that it takes into
consideration impact on neighborhoods.

"The Legislature did dump on counties," Commissioner C.W. Smith

He said some of the medical marijuana gardens are operating at a
commercial level, so he thought there should be provisions to ensure
they are good neighbors.

Commissioner Dave Gilmour noted the county wasn't able to devise a
noise ordinance several years ago, so he believed drafting regulations
on smell and lights also would pose problems.

Commissioners agreed to analyze the possibility of writing new
language into the county's land-use laws, but also wanted to urge
lawmakers to address the issue with legislation.

Jackson County Sheriff's Detective Donald Adams said his agency
received hundreds of complaints over the last month about medical marijuana.

Richard Maughs, a medical marijuana grower and consultant who lives
near Rogue River, said neighbor complaints are leading to more people
knowing about the operation and increasing the chances of thievery.

Pointing toward one of his neighbors, he said, "He has caused a
security risk for our patients."

Maughs said he has people watching the operation 24 hours a

He said the conflict with his neighbor is adding to the stress of
losing at least three patients to cancer and other illnesses this year.

"Everything here is for our patients," said Maughs,

He said he has talked to the sheriff's department about his operation
and doesn't think the smell or the number of plants he's growing
should cause a big problem. He estimated the plants are about 100
yards from the nearest house, except for his landlord's.

Maughs said he could grow up to six plants for each patient, but said
he has chosen to grow only three to be a good neighbor.

Steve Austin, a Rogue River neighbor who complained to commissioners
about a marijuana operation, said, "My issue is the unbelievable
hordes of lowlifes and miscreants that charge up and down this driveway."

Melanie Barniskis, spokeswoman for the Southern Oregon chapter of the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the smell
of marijuana can be intense at this time of year, but there is nothing
in Oregon legislation addressing smell.

Traffic is a neighborhood issue, which Barniskis said should be worked
out among the residents.

"That would upset me," she said. "I would tell my patients to come
only during normal business hours."

NORML promotes the responsible use of marijuana and urges growers to
show respect to neighbors. But because the marijuana is a medication,
there may be instances in which someone needs to come in the early
morning hours, she said.

"Most people who are legal growers are going to follow the law to the
letter," she said. "They do this out of compassion."

She said under Oregon law, the grow site must be kept out of view of
the public.

Growers often become interested in marijuana after they've seen the
benefits of the medicine for a loved one who has cancer or glaucoma.

Barniskis said she didn't dispute the possibility the Sheriff's
Department has received a lot of complaints recently because the pot
is more visible now and there typically is more security before harvest.

"It is a nervous time, even with the legal protection of having the
grow cards," she said. 
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