Morgan questions need for marijuana deputy
By Shaun Hall of the Daily Courier
Josephine County Commissioner Lily Morgan on Tuesday questioned why her colleagues want to create a three-person team to enforce marijuana regulations when the state is already acting in the matter.
She particularly questioned the proposed hiring of an additional sheriff's deputy to focus on marijuana-related law enforcement.
"When it's not our job to enforce, why would we put a deputy just for marijuana?" she asked during a Board of Commissioners work session.
Morgan was out sick last week when commissioners Simon Hare and Dan DeYoung proposed hiring an attorney, a code enforcement officer and a sheriff's deputy to deal with land-use violations at marijuana grow sites.
The proposed move, dubbed a "pot patrol," comes at a time the Board of Commissioners is grappling with regulations to deal with an explosion of complaints about marijuana grow sites and farms in rural areas of the county. Josephine County has over 3,000 registered medical marijuana grow sites, second only to neighboring Jackson County in Oregon.
Morgan said the Oregon State Police already has two detectives assigned to marijuana-related crimes in Josephine and Jackson counties, with plans for another detective to come aboard in a few months.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is increasing its number of investigators in the area to seven, up from three, to deal with marijuana operations, she said. The state is beefing up enforcement following the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014.
DeYoung replied that a "cannabis deputy" would be like a beat cop who knows the players, but could also be available to deal with more than only marijuana-related crime.
He also said that such a deputy would be needed to specifically help enforce the county's proposed marijuana-related land-use regulations.
"It's going to be a real big drain on your office," DeYoung told Sheriff Dave Daniel, who was at the work session.
"You're not just sending one deputy out to certain locations," Daniel replied.
Hare said the county's code enforcement officer shouldn't go into some locations alone for safety reasons. And County Legal Counsel Wally Hicks said having a deputy along would lessen the county's liability in dangerous situations.
Hare also said the new hires could deal with a backlog of about 700 land-use violation cases that might or might not be marijuana-related.
State and county marijuana tax revenue might be tapped to pay part of the costs for the new hires.
"I know there's a need and a potential revenue fill," Hare said. "The need was a year ago."
Hare said he would come back with a more-detailed proposal on Thursday, when the board meets for its weekly administration workshop, set for 9 a.m. in the board's conference room at the courthouse.
Reach Daily Courier reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.