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Council limits pot gardens to four plants

Medford City Council Thursday night set a four-plant limit for marijuana gardens, but it won't take effect until Nov. 1 after the pot harvest.

The council also passed an odor ordinance that could force some pot growers to pull their plants if a neighbor files a complaint.

During the council's Thursday noon meeting, it couldn't come to agreement over the four-plant limit but decided at the night meeting on the compromise plan setting the Nov. 1 start date.

"We have delayed voting long enough," Councilor Daniel Bunn stated in a text Thursday night.

He said the council directed staff to continue to work on the four-plant ordinance during the next few months because of concerns raised by the city's attorney over legal issues.

"Even though we know changes are required before it goes into effect, we felt it was important to take a formal position," Bunn stated.

Deputy City Attorney Kevin McConnell had told the council it would be on more solid legal ground if the city waited to enact an ordinance limiting the number of plants until the growing season was over and could prove that pot gardens are a health and safety issue within the city.

“We want to be real careful that we do it the right way,” McConnell said.

McConnell said restricting the number of plants would require more analysis. For instance, the ordinance needed to clarify how many plants an apartment unit could have.

“It’s trickier than it seems,” he said.

The odor ordinance would provide a way for residents who object to the stench of their neighbor's pot garden to file a complaint with the city.

At the noon meeting, Councilor Chris Corcoran pointed out that the grow season was already well underway, so it would be difficult to enact an ordinance limiting the number of plants at this point.

“We’re going to spend a lot of money on legal fees,” he said.

Under Oregon law, six plants can be grown by or for a medical marijuana patient and four plants by someone who grows for recreational reasons.

Licensed medical marijuana growers who have been providing cannabis for multiple patients can grow up to 96 plants in rural areas and 24 on an urban lot. New growers will be limited to half that amount, or 48 plants in rural areas and 12 in cities.

Councilor Dick Gordon said he thought an odor ordinance would be difficult to enforce and that by the time the city took action against a resident for growing pot plants the growing season would be over.

“It’s not workable,” he said.

In other actions, the council approve going forward with a study to determine time, place and manner rules for cannabis-related businesses within the city.

At present, the city has a ban on marijuana dispensaries. In 2016, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will begin licensing producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers of marijuana.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @reporterdm.