Attorneys argue county's pot rules
By Shaun Hall of the Daily Courier
A decision on the legality of Josephine County's new commercial marijuana rules is expected in early April, after a hearing Thursday by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals in Salem.
Wednesday was the day the county's restrictions on commercial marijuana farming in rural residential zones were supposed to go into effect.
Instead, the restrictions remained on hold by order of LUBA last month, pending a decision that "probably" will be issued sometime between April 5-11, according to a spokesperson for the board.
Marijuana growers are appealing a county ordinance that outlines the restrictions, including a ban on marijuana farming on rural residential parcels 5 acres and smaller, plus limits on the size of a marijuana "grows" on larger parcels, unless exceptions are granted by the county.
About 50 people or more attended Thursday's hearing, held before the three-member board in Salem. Each side was given 30 minutes to argue their points, although no new evidence was allowed.
County Commissioner Dan DeYoung said growers always had the option to apply for a variance — the formal term for exceptions to the restrictions.
LUBA's prior decision to hold off on allowing the county to enforce its ordinance pending a final decision on its legality irked DeYoung, who said residents were frustrated with unwanted marijuana farms in their neighborhoods.
"Our ordinance should have taken effect today," DeYoung said. "I've had too many people that are just so furious. People are fed up."
"Everybody's going to pack up and leave," he added. "The good people are leaving and the marijuana people are staying."
County Legal Counsel Wally Hicks said opponents focused on the fact that the county didn't send out notices to every owner of rural residential property.
Instead, the county notified the public about the new rules through a publication of general circulation — the Daily Courier. Some affected properties known to the county were notified directly, too.
Takilma marijuana farm CEO and plaintiff Mason Walker said this morning he was told that the hearing drew the largest audience ever for a LUBA hearing, and that the venue had to be changed to a larger room.
He said it's been business as usual for his farm, although the legal matters were taking their toll.
"The biggest impact has been my legal fees," he said. "A lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of energy."
Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.