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The difference between Jackson & Josephine

Yes, Josephine and Jackson counties are very different


Josephine County and Jackson County are two very different beasts. It appears the Josephine County Board of Commissioners came to that realization Wednesday.

The commissioners tabled an order that would have tasked planning director Julie Schmelzer with "an application for review of proposed text amendments that provide for potential changes to agriculture, farming and farm use in all Rural Residential zones in Josephine County."

The order would have opened the door for Josephine County to pursue rural residential regulations similar to Jackson County's, which, unlike Josephine's passed-but-not-enacted marijuana ordinance, have passed muster with the state.

Jackson County law does not allow for-profit farm use on rural residential land, although existing marijuana growers were able to apply for pre-existing, non-conforming use status when that county's regulations went into effect.

Josephine County's commissioners — Dan DeYoung, Simon Hare and Lily Morgan — had floated the idea of a clampdown on any commercial farming on rural residential land, regardless of the crop. The target, of course, was marijuana.

What makes the two counties so different when it comes to agriculture? There are 7 1/2 times the number of acres being farmed in Jackson County compared to Josephine County.

A 2012 report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that in Jackson County, 214,079 acres were used for farming. Josephine County had only 28,256 acres that were farmed, the report said.

Perhaps the commissioners raised the possibility of outlawing all farming as a legal ploy. With real estate agents marketing properties in Josephine County as potential lavender farms or vineyards, the move would have thrown a wrench into the economic livelihoods of some.

With this chapter of the county's marijuana travails apparently closed — at least for the moment — attention will shift to the possibility of Josephine County seeking a federal declaratory judgment on the matter. The Declaratory Judgment Act "enables a party who will be injured by the enforcement of a law to obtain a federal court adjudication of his rights and responsibilities under the law," attorney Michael G. Munsell wrote in 1997.

A bit of irony here: When the commissioners were upset with a federal agency — the U.S. Forest Service — they wanted the state to step in. Yet now that they are unhappy with the state, they are considering seeking federal intervention.

Hypocrisy knows no bounds in the halls of government.

Scott Stoddard

Earlier Event: March 30
County firms up position on MJ