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Medford backyard pot ban in effect

Don't grow marijuana in your backyard in Medford.

A new local ordinance banning outdoor gardens that applies to both recreational and medical cannabis is in full force for the summer growing season.

Some locals, such as Douglas Hansen, were thinking about planting in their gardens by Mother's Day as temperatures begin to rise.

Hansen, a 63-year-old east Medford resident, said he was confused about the city's regulations on growing marijuana, and so are some of his friends.

"They were going to grow four recreational plants in their backyard, but they don’t know if they’ll go to jail," said Hansen, who is disabled.

Under the ordinance, they won't go to jail, but they could face a $250-a-day fine.

Medford voters in November approved a ban on outdoor gardens after some local residents objected to the smell of plants growing in their neighborhoods.

Under the new law, residents could grow indoors, including possibly in greenhouses, as long as neighbors don't complain about the smell. The city also has an odor ordinance that could apply to indoor or greenhouse grows.

While the city doesn't allow outdoor grows, it does allow retail sales of marijuana, and 13 licensed cannabis business have a Medford ZIP code.

Kevin McConnell, Medford city attorney, said Medford police will not be out searching for backyard grows.

"It’s complaint-based driven," he said. "There won’t be roving bands of police looking for it."

If a resident fails to comply after being warned, police can get a warrant from the courts to enter the backyard to rip out the plants, McConnell said.

Hansen said the Medford law will have a strong impact on medical users of marijuana, who seek relief from pain or other problems. Many of these medical users, he said, don't have the financial wherewithal to grow indoors.

Hansen, who hasn't grown cannabis since marijuana laws changed, said it's not cost-effective for him to grow inside his house, because the price of lights and electricity are too high for someone on a fixed income.

"Also, I don’t want it stinking up my house," he said.

Hansen said he can see both sides of the issue, from those annoyed by the odor in their neighbor's yard to those who can't afford to buy marijuana. But he thinks he could have grown on his property because he has a large quarter-acre lot.

Hansen still has one more option.

Last year, the City Council discussed whether greenhouses should be considered outdoor or indoor gardens. So far, the council hasn't resolved the issue, but the topic could come up again if residents complain about greenhouse cannabis operations this summer.

Medford police Sgt. Don Lane, who's in charge of code enforcement, said officers would seek voluntary compliance before issuing any citations.

He said he's not aware of any complaints being received this year by Medford residents about their neighbor's marijuana plants.

"By late summer or early fall, they will be getting to the size where neighbors start complaining about them," Lane said.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Medford residents can buy and smoke marijuana but can't grow it outside in their backyards. [File photo]