Oregon city considers penalizing pot growers for smelly marijuana

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 11, 2015 3:27 PM

By Shelby Sebens

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - The Oregon city of Medford, where officials say residents have long grumbled about the odor of marijuana growing operations, is considering a regulation that would fine pot growers if their marijuana is too smelly, city officials said on Wednesday.

The city's legal staff has drafted an ordinance that would fine both medical and recreational marijuana growers whose operations are too malodorous up to $250 a day and would give the city power to seize plants if growers don’t come into compliance.

In addition to containing odors, marijuana growers would be required to keep their plants locked up and out of sight in Medford, a city of nearly 80,000 people in southern Oregon whose economy is at least partly based on conventional agriculture.

Since Oregon legalized medical marijuana in the late 1990s, Medford citizens have consistently complained about the smell of weed, and council members decided to act on the issue after state voters opted in November to legalize recreational marijuana, Deputy City Attorney Kevin McConnell said.

Council members were expected to study the draft ordinance at a work session on Thursday and vote on the matter before recreational weed officially becomes legal statewide on July 1, McConnell said. 

"I think there was a feeling now (that) this is going to become more prevalent, and it’s something that needs to be dealt with,” McConnell said. 

Critics say this is just another Oregon town that doesn’t want legalized recreational marijuana.

“Is there a prohibition on all noxious odors or just marijuana, which some people wouldn’t think is a noxious odor? My suspicion is that they don’t and this is nothing more than a veiled attempt to undermine implementation of the ballot measure,” American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque said. 

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The law gives towns the authority to enact reasonable restrictions, and Fidanque said some towns are taking that too far, trying to regulate marijuana out of their backyards.

By contrast, McConnell said it’s simply a matter of what makes sense for Medford. 

“My argument would be that it’s more of a general question about what’s the societal norm here in Medford? Is the smell of marijuana a normal smell? That’s up to the council to decide.” 

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)