Pubdate: Thu, 06 Sep 2012
Source: Ashland Daily Tidings (OR)
Copyright: 2012 Ashland Daily Tidings
Author: Vickie Aldous


Smell More Potent As Harvest Time Approaches

With the arrival of September, medical marijuana patients are eagerly 
awaiting the start of harvest season -- and some irate neighbors who 
live near pot gardens are yearning for the removal of often-smelly 
marijuana plants.

Ashland resident Eliza Kauder said she endured overpowering odors 
from her neighbor's medical marijuana garden from June through 
October last year.

Her neighbor abandoned his pot growing efforts for this year, but the 
smell of the plants is still fresh in Kauder's mind.

"It was like having a family of skunks living in our backyard," 
Kauder said. "It's my understanding that marijuana that's growing has 
a very distinctive odor. It's sometimes referred to as 'skunk weed.'"

Kauder said the odor invaded her home, making her nauseous, and could 
be detected from two blocks away. She had to keep her windows closed 
and stop hanging clothes to dry outside because of the pervasive smell.

After multiple complaints to city of Ashland officials, Kauder's 
neighbor was eventually cited under an Ashland law that prohibits 
odor nuisances. He harvested about two dozen plants he was growing 
for several medical marijuana patients, eliminating the odor headache 
for Kauder and her husband.

Other neighbors had also complained about the smell, she said.

This June, Kauder asked the Ashland City Council to require that 
medical marijuana gardens be set back at least 75 feet from 
neighbors' property lines.

Given average lot sizes in Ashland, that could effectively ban most 
residents from legally growing medical marijuana.

City officials haven't had time to investigate the marijuana issue 
and consider new regulations in time for this growing season, said 
Ashland City Administrator Dave Kanner.

Kauder's neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, said last year was 
his first attempt at having a medical marijuana garden.

He said he didn't have an issue with the smell and the neighborhood 
is home to a lot of skunks, which may have contributed to odor 
issues. The odor nuisance citation cost him about $200, he said.

He said he opposes the idea of requiring marijuana gardens to be set 
back 75 feet from property lines. But he did have a word of advice 
for people thinking about growing the plants.

"Be aware of your neighbors and potentially consult with them first," 
he suggested.

Lori Duckworth -- executive director of the Southern Oregon chapter 
of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which 
is based at the Cannabis Community Center in downtown Medford -- said 
there are hundreds of varieties of marijuana plants and they produce 
different smells while growing.

Some are sweet or fruity, while others are pungent, sour or smell 
like skunks, Duckworth said.

She said a 75-foot buffer zone might not be enough to keep odors from 
reaching neighbors. She said if Ashland adopted such a law, it should 
also require buffer zones for dog kennels, cigarette smoking and 
other odor-producing facilities and activities.

NORML tries to educate medical marijuana growers about how to be good 
neighbors. It offers growing classes as well as mediation services 
between growers and neighbors, Duckworth said.

"Be the kind of neighbor you would want your neighbor to be," she 
advised growers.

Duckworth said if growers want marijuana to be accepted by society as 
a medicine and an agricultural crop, they must act professionally.

Ashland city officials haven't been the only ones to hear complaints 
about marijuana gardens.

The city of Rogue River's Planning Commission and City Council have 
been examining potential restrictions on growers. Any potential new 
laws wouldn't be adopted in time for this year's growing season, said 
Rogue River City Administrator Mark Reagles.

The city of Rogue River's Planning Commission looked at proposals 
that marijuana be grown only indoors -- either in a greenhouse or 
inside the grower's home, Reagles said.

City of Rogue River officials have heard testimony that that might 
not be enough to control odors in neighborhoods, he said.

Growing marijuana indoors in a home can be costly, expose the grower 
to overwhelming smells and could push people to rent homes for the 
exclusive purpose of raising marijuana plants, according to public testimony.

Oregon law allows a patient to grow six plants for himself or 
herself. A grower can raise six plants each for patients with medical 
marijuana cards.

The Rogue River Planning Commission looked at a proposal to ban the 
growing of medical marijuana within 1,000 feet of public and private 
schools and daycare centers, Reagles said.

"Once you did an overlay of those 1,000 foot circles around schools 
and daycare, there was literally not any place left in the city to 
grow," he said.

The Planning Commission plans to draw 100 to 200 foot buffer zone 
circles and see what impact that might have, Reagles said.

Another idea is to restrict marijuana gardens to industrial zones, he said.

Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said many growers may be 
growing too much marijuana, which could be exacerbating odor issues.

Although six plants are allowed per patient, once those plants are 
harvested, they often produce far more than the pound-and-a-half of 
material that is allowed per patient, Holderness said.

Duckworth said growers can stay within the rules governing harvested 
material by staggering harvest times, getting dried medical marijuana 
to patients right away rather than storing it, or donating excess material.

Medical marijuana cannot be legally sold under Oregon law.

Regardless of the number of plants a grower has, Holderness said odor 
from marijuana gardens is a common problem affecting many 
communities, especially as marijuana buds begin maturing in September 
and October.

To avoid odor nuisance citations in Ashland, growers usually need to 
eliminate the odor problem, and that means reducing the number of 
plants or harvesting them, Holderness said.

Identifying a smell as offensive can be admittedly subjective, but if 
a police officer can easily smell the plants, and the odor interferes 
with a neighbor's ability to enjoy his or her property, it's likely a 
violation of Ashland's odor nuisance law, he said.

Holderness said when Oregon voters loosened state law to allow for 
medical marijuana in 1998, most probably didn't realize marijuana 
plants can shoot up much higher than a person's head and produce 
powerful smells.

"Everyone was thinking about the little potted plants they remember 
from their college days," he said. "I don't think people realize we 
have people growing marijuana plants the size of citrus trees."
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