Josephine County has proven itself ill-equipped, almost to the point of haplessness, to effectively deal with the marijuana industry.
We hear a lot of talk from the county commissioners and the sheriff about marijuana growing's adverse effects on the community. At the same time, however, a lack of code enforcement and law enforcement keeps the rule-breakers and lawless types in business while dragging down the legitimate business owners who do things by the book, who strive to be good neighbors and who try to earn an honest living.
County planning director Julie Schmelzer told Curry County officials that there are 5,000 illegal grow sites here. How many have been visited by law enforcement?
So tomorrow the county commissioners will in all likelihood make it much more difficult to grow marijuana here. They are legislating an issue of contention out of existence in the wake of their utter failure to adequately regulate it.
In other words, they're taking the easy way out.
In April, Schmelzer wrote a letter to Jeffrey Rhoades, the governor's senior adviser on marijuana policy. Her closing sentence read, "From someone who spends 99% of their day on marijuana complaints, instead of economic development (like I'm supposed to), I beg the state to help us."
Actually, resolving those complaints — holding those who ignore the law accountable — would in fact drive economic development. The marijuana industry has stoked the local economy, but the coming bucket of cold water about to be tossed on the fire will negatively ripple through countless businesses across Josephine County.
Neighbors who are adversely affected by a marijuana farm must have avenues of recourse. But property rights go both ways. While changes to land-use code will put some growers out of business, the inevitable lawsuits against the county can't be swept aside by an ordinance. As the Daily Courier's Shaun Hall reports in a front-page story today, local marijuana farmers are organizing. They are leaving no doubt that lawsuits are imminent.
"The county commissioners are going to force these property owners to pursue legal action to protect their rights," says the group's legal representative, attorney Ross Day.
The commissioners may pass an ordinance Wednesday that drops the hammer on marijuana growing on rural residential land, but this story is far from over.