Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jun 2016
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2016 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: Shaun Hall, of the Daily Courier


Law Requiring Fences Around Pot Grows Creates Some Eyesores

MURPHY - They say good fences make good neighbors. Then there are the 
fences that enclose the growing number of Josephine County's 
marijuana grow sites.

There are a lot of them. And they are often ugly, especially when 
topped by a couple feet of plastic.

Among those unhappy with the proliferation of Visqueen view blockers 
is Chris Locke, a Murphy landscape nursery owner who endures the 
sight of a neighbor's fenced marijuana grow.

Locke, co-owner of Murphy Country Nursery, 6775 Williams Highway, 
says the fences are ruining Josephine County's rural landscape. 
They're tall, and typically made of wood, or wood topped with 
plastic. Many are easy to spot.

"There are so many people who are unbelievably unhappy over the 
fences," said Locke, who has erected a sign that says, "That's not 
ours," with an arrow pointing at the grow next to her business, 
located just south of the Applegate River and within plain view of 
traffic on Williams Highway.

"I think the laws should be changed," Locke said. "Whoever made the 
laws that it (a marijuana grow) had to be covered up, it's ridiculous."

Last year, the fence next door to Locke's business was an ugly black 
plastic barrier. This year, it's been upgraded to an ugly black 
plastic barrier adorned with brightly painted artsy fish, turtles and 
dragonflies. It looks to be at least 12 feet tall.

The artwork could be described as having a psychedelic Northwest 
tribal motif. A local artist did the work, according to a man tending 
the property. He asked not to be named.

"We have the nicest fence in the valley," he said at the site 
Wednesday. "We did this to make everybody happy."

Locke says the fence, backed by chain link, is better than it was, 
but believes she lost business last year when would-be customers saw 
the fence and thought it was her marijuana grow.

Her sign disclaiming ownership of the grow went up about a month ago. 
Since then, people stop about once a day to say they've stayed away 
because they thought the grow was hers, she said.

"I realized last year, when they became real obvious, boy, it's 
really slowed down here," she said. "I passed it off."

The number of fences in the county has increased as the use of 
medical marijuana and the number of medical marijuana grow sites 
increased since 1998, the year Oregon voters approved the use of pot 
as a medicine.

In January, Josephine County had more than 2,700 medical marijuana 
grow sites, up nearly 300 from the previous year. The county also had 
nearly 6,500 medical marijuana patients, up about 1,300 from a year earlier.

This year, following voter approval of recreational marijuana, the 
state has approved 11 grow sites in Josephine County to provide 
marijuana to retail outlets. Rules for the recreational program 
mandate that grows be shielded from public view, with one option to 
accomplish that being the construction of an 8-foot fence.

A fence isn't required, said Mark Pettinger, a spokesman for the 
Oregon Liquor Control Commission, regulators of the new recreational market.

"They just need to make sure it's obscured from the eyes of the 
public," he says. "As long as they can prevent public access and 
obscure it from public view, they don't necessarily need an 8-foot fence."

Exactly why marijuana in the field should be shielded from public 
view isn't something Pettinger or his counterpart with the Oregon 
Medical Marijuana Program, Jonathan Modie, is able to answer 
definitively. Pettinger said it goes back to the intent of lawmakers 
and program founders.

State Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, could only guess how the idea 
for shielding pot from public view came to be. He was a member of a 
joint legislative committee overseeing implementation of recreational 

"Everybody knows what's behind the screen," he said. "That's crazy."

Josephine County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Cherryl Walker, 
herself a medical marijuana grower, also didn't know the origin of 
the rule to shield pot from view.

"I don't understand why it has to be," she said. "You know what's 
behind it (a fence). You're not concealing it. The complaint we've 
had is they're detrimental to property values."

Walker, who said she fields complaints daily about grow sites - on a 
range of issues, not just fences - says the plastic fences get holes 
in them, rip and blow with the wind.

"It does look pretty shabby," she said. "I find it to be a very 
unsightly aspect of the industry."

Some growers, in an apparent effort to avoid county permit fees, 
build solid wood fences up to 7 feet tall, the limit at which a fence 
may be built without a permit in the county, and then add an 
additional foot or two of plastic to shield grows, Walker surmised.

The county is considering allowing 8-foot-high fences without the 
need for a permit. At a recent town hall meeting in Williams, pot 
industry proponents suggested the use of wire fences, and one person 
said that tall solid fences inhibit the migration of wildlife.

Town hall meetings about possible fencing, setback and other grow 
site regulations were held earlier this month in Williams and Wolf 
Creek, with another set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Anne Basker 
Auditorium, 600 N.W. Sixth St.

A fourth and final town hall is set for June 28 at the Cave Junction 
County Building, 102 S. Redwood Highway in Cave Junction.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom