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Clearing the air

The legal right to grow marijuana for medical purposes should not confer the right to inflict overpowering odors on one's neighbors. And a city that attempts to protect everyone's interests is doing what a local government should do.

At the moment, we're speaking of Phoenix, although the issue is sure to pop up in other towns as well. We're not speaking of medical marijuana dispensaries, which come with their own list of issues. That's a question for another day.

Phoenix officials are collecting information from other communities in the state and plan a study session later this month on a potential ordinance to regulate backyard marijuana gardens inside the city limits. They are well within their rights in doing this, and do not deserve to be accused of violating anyone's rights.

Mayor Jeff Bellah stressed the city has no interest in debating the medical marijuana law, only in balancing the needs of patients and growers with the right of city residents to be free from noxious odors in their neighborhoods.

Mature marijuana plants exude a pungent smell that some compare to skunk spray. Some residents whose neighbors grow medical marijuana say they have to limit their enjoyment of their own backyards in late summer because of the odor.

Oregon voters approved of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. It's now state law. But growers of medical cannabis should not get some kind of special dispensation to annoy their neighbors simply because they are producing medicine that patients need.

No one questions zoning rules that prohibit property owners from running a feedlot or a pig farm in a city backyard. Cows and pigs are not medicine, but they are food. And it is generally accepted that livestock should be raised on agricultural land, outside incorporated towns, because of manure odors.

If marijuana can be grown inside greenhouses or indoors so that the odor is contained, it should be permitted in residential areas. If not, cities are within their rights to restrict it through zoning.