Pubdate: Sun, 22 May 2016
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: Vickie Aldous, Mail Tribune


MEDFORD, Ore. - Only a handful of medical marijuana growers have 
applied for Jackson County permits to keep growing on rural 
residential land - even though growers without permits face fines of 
up to $10,000 and orders to remove their plants.

Most are flying under the radar, hoping to avoid detection rather 
than pay the $1,563 permit application fee, the Mail Tribune reported.

Jackson County has received only seven applications from growers 
hoping to be grandfathered in by qualifying for a pre-existing, 
non-conforming use permit.

"It isn't many. It's a lot less than I had anticipated," said Jackson 
County Development Services Director Kelly Madding.

According to state data from April, Jackson County has 2,993 known 
medical marijuana grow sites, although how many are in rural 
residential zones is unknown.

Permits became necessary after a state law passed this spring defined 
medical marijuana growing as a farm use. Farm use - the for-profit 
raising of crops or livestock - is not allowed in rural residential 
zones under Jackson County law. Grows are allowed, however, in 
exclusive farm use and forest zones.

Madding said it's not clear why so few medical marijuana growers are 
applying for the permits that would allow them to keep growing 
legally on rural residential land.

"Some people may have moved onto lawful property. Maybe some decided 
not to grow," she said. "I also think there are people who understand 
we do enforcement on a complaint basis and they're waiting to see if 
we come knocking on their door."

County staff members are not out hunting for illegal marijuana grows, 
but they will investigate if neighbors or others file complaints 
about suspected illegal grows.

If someone does file a complaint, a grower will be given the 
opportunity to apply for a permit. Fines and potential orders to 
remove plants would kick in if a grower refuses to seek a permit, Madding said.

advocacy group has filed an appeal with the state Land Use Board of 
Appeals seeking to block enforcement of Jackson County's marijuana 
regulations. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners also has 
indicated it may look at altering county rules on farm use.

Pete Gendron, president of the SunGrown Growers' Guild that 
represents southern Oregon outdoor growers, said it's clear to him 
why most Jackson County medical marijuana growers are holding back on 
applying for permits.

"The answer is pretty simple. We're in a legal limbo and it costs 
$1,563 to apply," said Gendron, who grows in neighboring Josephine 
County. "There's been no guidance on how long it will take to get a 
permit. People right now are taking a wait-and-see approach."

He said many growers are also opposed to permit requirements on 
political grounds.

"A number of people are looking at this as civil disobedience," 
Gendron said. "It's a nonviolent protest."

He said marijuana growers are used to facing risks because the 
federal government still considers marijuana to be illegal despite 
state legalization. Growing without a county permit is just one more risk.

Portland-based attorney Ross Day represents both Right to Grow in its 
fight to stop enforcement of Jackson County regulations and one of 
the few growers who has applied for a county permit to be 
grandfathered in on rural residential land.

"I represent an applicant for a non-conforming use permit. We're 
waiting to get a final decision on that," he said. "I have to advise 
my clients not to violate the law - even though I think the county is wrong."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom