Pot growers forming property rights group
By Shaun Hall of the Daily Courier
An attorney who says he represents a group of marijuana growers is inviting the public to attend a 10 a.m. Wednesday meeting to organize opposition to proposed Josephine County marijuana farming regulations.
The meeting is set to begin an hour after the county Board of Commissioners is set to hold what might be its final public hearing on the regulations prior to adoption.
The regulations ban commercial marijuana farming in rural residential zones on lots 5 acres and smaller unless growers obtain an exception.
The new rules also restrict the size of commercial marijuana farms on rural residential lots larger than 5 acres.
A commercial farm is newly defined as any parcel with more than 12 mature marijuana plants.
While the ban might affect a few dozen existing commercial marijuana farms regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, it could affect plans for farms in the process of becoming licensed or in the planning stage. And it could affect existing medical marijuana farms.
The county is home to more than 3,000 registered medical marijuana grow sites regulated by the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and more than 100 existing commercial farms regulated by the OLCC.
Since Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, Josephine County has experienced a spike in the number of medical marijuana farms, in addition to the creation of large commercial farms growing for the adult retail market in Oregon.
The growth spurt has injected the local economy with cash and created jobs, but neighbors have complained about a range of issues ranging from ugly fences and smell to noise and illegal activity.
While neighbors complain they can no longer quietly enjoy their homes, growers have told county commissioners their own property rights are being violated by the proposed new rules.
Attorney Ross Day of Portland issued a statement for Wednesday's organizational meeting, to be held at 207 S.W. K St.
"These farmers have tried to explain to the county commissioners that the ordinance they intend to pass, as currently written, violates state law," Day said. "We have tried to work with the county to draft an ordinance that protects private property rights, while at the same time addressing some of the rural conflicts."
County Legal Counsel Wally Hicks said Day is a prominent land-use attorney with whom he has discussed the proposed regulations. According to a story in The Oregonian, Day co-authored Ballot Measure 37, the sweeping property-rights measure passed by Oregon voters in 2004, and is a past executive director for Common Sense for Oregon, which works to reduce government regulation.
"He has stated to me his clients wish to appeal the current draft to the Land Use Board of Appeals," Hicks told the Daily Courier this morning.
Day's written statement didn't detail what state laws the county might be violating, but growers have said they consider the new rules to be a "taking." The county is allowed by state law to regulate reasonable "time, place and matter" rules.
Commissioners are giving legal growers two years to comply with new rules if they are located on lots larger than 5 acres in rural residential zones. The board's public hearing on the new rules, already tentatively approved by commissioners, is set for 9 a.m. at the Basker Auditorium, 604 N.W. Sixth St.
In his statement, Day threatened to sue, but Hicks said he's done extensive research.
"I've provided results and advice to the board," he said.
Day's group is called "Farm & Agricultural Rights Management" or FARM. Reach him at 503-747-2705.
Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.