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Jackson County adopts marijuana regulations

After months of public meetings, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday adopted laws governing the growing, processing and selling of recreational and medical marijuana outside city limits.

The laws go into effect immediately.

Outdoor grows are not allowed within 250 feet of city limits.

Marijuana can be grown in exclusive farm use and forest zones.

New marijuana growing is allowed in industrial zones, as long as processing also takes place there. People who were already growing in industrial zones can continue to do so for three years, after which they have to become compliant with the new laws by adding processing or relocating.

Commissioners had planned on allowing medical marijuana grows on rural residential land with 75-foot buffers from neighboring property, but a new law passed by the Oregon Legislature this month effectively bans medical marijuana grows there, according to how county officials are interpreting the state law.

The Legislature designated medical marijuana growing a farm use, and Jackson County's Comprehensive Plan and land-use laws bar farm use on rural residential land. Recreational marijuana was already defined as a farm use and banned on rural residential land in the county.

"It was the intention of this board to allow continued production of medical marijuana on rural residential land," Commissioner Rick Dyer said. "The legislation very clearly established medical marijuana as a farm use. We had no choice. It was clear. The mandate was absolutely clear."

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said the intent of the state law was never to block medical marijuana grows on rural residential land. Legislators instead wanted to allow existing grows to continue, but to block new grows.

Buckley and state Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, accused county officials last week of misinterpreting the new state law.

Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said legislators rushed the state law through without taking time to study the impact in Jackson County.

County officials had publicly raised red flags about their interpretation of the law before it passed.

Dyer said Wednesday the Legislature's legislative counsel has apologized to the county about statements that Jackson County officials were misinterpreting the new state law.

Existing medical marijuana growers on rural residential land can apply for non-conforming-use status, which is available to property owners using their land in a way that becomes illegal under a new law.

Breidenthal asked for patience from growers and said county officials may carefully consider revisions to the county's Comprehensive Plan ban on farm use in rural residential zones.

Under other new regulations adopted Wednesday by the county, commissioners banned grow fencing made of temporary materials such as plastic sheeting, tarps and hay bales. State law requires grows to be screened from public view — which led plastic sheet fencing to proliferate throughout Jackson County.

Marijuana processing is limited to industrial and exclusive farm use zones in the county. Processing buildings must be equipped with odor filtration systems.

Medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational marijuana shops are not allowed within one mile of the Veterans Affairs' Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics, which provides drug and alcohol treatment.

Dispensaries and shops also must be at least 1,000 feet from parks, schools, other dispensaries and shops, I-5 interchanges and the Jackson County Transition Center for people in the criminal justice system. They are banned on property adjacent to residential zones.

The county regulations generally don't apply to the four recreational marijuana plants and six medical marijuana plants adults are allowed to grow for their own personal use under state law.

However, people in urban residential zones must grow their personal plants inside a home or building that is not a translucent greenhouse.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Jackson County Marijuana Rules by Mail Tribune

Marijuana clones grow in a greenhouse in Williams this month. Jackson County regulations prohibit grows on rural residential land but give existing growers a process for obtaining non-conforming-use status. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch