Medical marijuana inspectors in region soon
By Shaun Hall of the Daily Courier
Inspectors with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program are expected to be in Southern Oregon starting next week as the fall harvest season begins.
After years of a hands-off philosophy dating back to the late 1990s, when medical marijuana became legal in Oregon, the inspections mark the second year in a row for the visits after new laws were passed that allow them.
"We're looking forward to having the same positive reception," OMMP compliance section manager Chris Westfall said. "We had a great time. People were very gracious."
Last year, fewer than 20 sites were inspected in Southwest Oregon.
This year, at least "four or five dozen" grow sites will be inspected in the region, which includes Douglas, Josephine, Jackson and Klamath counties, Westfall said. That's out of the more than 8,000 sites registered in the region with the OMMP, a division of the Oregon Health Authority.
Jackson and Josephine have the most grow sites in the state.
"This year, we're looking at the ones that have the highest plant concentrations," Westfall said.
The Josephine County-based Oregon SunGrowers Guild has notified its members to get things in order.
"ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT," the guild's president, Peter Gendron, posted to the group's social media site on Sept. 8. "OHA is out and about inspecting OMMP grow sites and they are not being very nice about it."
Gendron said growers will be given at least 24 hours notice prior to inspections. He advised members that they don't have to let inspectors into a home without a warrant. He said inspectors were apparently counting plants to ensure growers were not exceeding limits.
Last year, two growers in Southern Oregon were found to have too many mature plants. Those plants, about 18 total, were voluntarily destroyed on the spot. No penalties were imposed.
Last year's inspections were something of a test run after the Oregon Legislature, which is trying to stave off federal intervention over smuggling, gave approval for them to take place. Marijuana, both recreational and medical, is still considered an illegal drug by the federal government.
Westfall said inspectors are learning how to engage with growers courteously.
"The thing we learned very clearly is that the growers and patients are producing this as a medicinal product and often don't want to be treated as a business," he said. "They don't want overbearing. It's a partnership."
Westfall expects inspectors to be out until the end of the fall harvest in mid-November, but that inspections of indoor grow sites would continue beyond that.
The harvest probably is underway at some farms, he said.
Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medical marijuana by-the-numbers
3,074: Number of medical marijuana grow sites in Josephine County.
8,221: Number of total medical marijuana grow sites in Douglas, Josephine, Jackson and Klamath counties.
48: Minimum number of total medical marijuana grow sites expected to be inspected by the state this fall in those four counties.
2.6: Number of pounds of useable marijuana typically produced by each marijuana plant.
1-2: Number of pounds of marijuana used annually by a heavy user.