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Should pot be grown in commercial areas?

Owners of Eads Furniture and Appliance may be allowed to lease their warehouse space to cannabis growers, if the Medford City Council on Thursday approves cultivation on properties zoned heavy commercial. 

"We are writing to implore the City Council to reconsider the marijuana production restrictions for the C-H (heavy commercial) zone in the city of Medford," Brett and Trina Helfrich of Eads Investments LLC wrote Dec. 7, 2016.

After the Helfrichs made their plea to the city, planners put together a proposed ordinance that will be reviewed by the council based on a recommendation from the Planning Commission. The council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday.

The city currently allows marijuana production indoors in areas zoned industrial. Marijuana grows, either medical or recreational, are not allowed outdoors in residential areas.

According to existing city rules, the Helfrichs could have marijuana-extraction facilities or marijuana laboratories inside the warehouses, but not the growing of actual plants. The warehouses are located to the north of WinCo shopping center but are tucked back and aren’t readily visible from Riverside Avenue. 

Eads is surrounded by cannabis-related businesses, including one that sells greenhouses and another that is a cannabis testing laboratory.

"With the ever-changing climate in the cannabis industry, we have several interested parties for production but are unable to accommodate the existing requests due to this restriction on production," the Helfrichs stated in their letter.

Councilor Michael Zarosinski said he's wanted to limit marijuana grows in residential areas, so he said he's trying to be flexible about allowing it in other areas under more controlled situations.

"The Planning Commission was pretty split on the idea," he said.

Matt Brinkley, director of Medford planning, said he's only heard from the Helfrichs about growing indoors in heavy commercial areas of the cities.

"It's not like there is an overwhelming wave of interest," he said.

Dan Gilbert, co-owner of Kush Gardens in Medford and Shady Cove, has indicated interest in leasing Eads’ 12,000-square-foot warehouse off Riverside Avenue, but agreed he could wait to see whether the city changes its regulations. 

He previously said he’s unsure why every other type of cannabis operation is allowed in heavy commercial except cultivation. The city enacted the regulations in 2015.

Within Medford, 500 properties are zoned for heavy commercial, with many located to the west of Interstate 5 and a few clustered in the west and northeast.

Even if the council approves the ordinance, other regulations would come into play with marijuana production.

"They will need to mitigate any kind of offsite impacts such as odor," Brinkley said.

City planners looked at marijuana cultivation as an agricultural use. As a result, they decided to clean up code language to also allow agricultural uses in heavy commercial, as well as production of confectionary products.

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