Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jul 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, Grants Pass Daily Courier

Josephine County


A public hearing Wednesday about a proposed tax on the retail sale of 
marijuana in Josephine County blossomed to include comments about 
problems with marijuana growing operations.

No opposition to the tax surfaced from a handful of people who 
addressed the county Board of Commissioners at the Basker Auditorium, 
although there were plenty of suggestions about how to spend the 
money - including education, treatment, health and public safety programs.

But the subject of the hearing and a later comment period grew to 
include complaints about marijuana growing operations, including 
complaints that they use too much water, smell skunky, are enclosed 
by ugly fences and allow pesticides to float away on the wind.

Larry Ford of Grants Pass felt that little revenue would come from 
the tax, because marijuana growers will merely continue illegal 
trade. He suggested, too, that growers were using well water 
illegally, thus depleting groundwater.

"Drive down any road" and you'll see marijuana grows, Ford said. 
"With all the grows that are starting, I guarantee you people are not 

John Moskovita of Colonial Valley said his well has virtually gone 
dry since a growing operation went in next to his property.

"I'm down to nothing," he said, adding that he didn't like the 
skunk-like smell of the marijuana and the smell of pesticides.

Moskovita said he was going to try to round up neighbors with similar 
problems to protest at upcoming hearings. Another hearing on the tax 
is set for Aug. 10 before the Board of Commissioners, and a hearing 
about possible new land-use regulations is expected to be held 
sometime in August before the county's Rural Area Planning Commission.

One possible new land-use rule might require growing operations to be 
a certain distance from property lines. As for water-use violations, 
those issues are investigated by the state Water Resources Department.

There are nearly 2,500 medical marijuana growing sites and more than 
100 licensed recreational marijuana growers approved in Josephine 
County, according to the latest state statistics.

Commissioner Simon Hare told the audience that complaints are 
flooding in about water use, public safety, fencing and code 
enforcement issues related to marijuana. The complaints typically 
wind up at the county's planning department.

"They're overwhelmed," he said of planning staff, adding that the 
state has not made provisions to adequately fund enforcement.

"They don't think about all the impacts negatively where this stuff's 
being grown," Hare said.

On the plus side, Hare noted that there are some nice fences being 
built. And, suppliers of garden, soil and irrigation products and 
services are doing some of their best business ever.

Commissioners have proposed a 3 percent tax on the retail sale of 
marijuana outside of the cities of Grants Pass and Cave Junction. 
Voters would have to approve it, on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Revenue likely would be paltry - under $15,000, according to county 
estimates - unless state legislators allow a tax on wholesale sales. 
The county tax would be on top of a 17 percent state tax on retail sales.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom