Put pot growing to a vote in Medford
After signaling last month that it was easing up on recreational marijuana rules, the Medford City Council abruptly voted last week to ban all marijuana growing in the city limits, even indoors. The move, which came virtually unannounced, affects a city in which roughly half of the voters cast ballots in 2014 to legalize pot. Given that, we suggest the better course for the council would be to put the issue on the ballot.
Thursday's vote was 6-2, which means the ordinance will come up for a second reading before being enacted. The council should hold off on enacting it and put all marijuana issues up for a public vote.
Most Medford council members have been personally uncomfortable with the idea of marijuana being grown in the city, and say they've heard complaints from some constituents, although that's hard to quantify. Medford police say they have received 27 complaints, 22 of which have been resolved, all without criminal charges being filed. And Lt. Kevin Walruff told the council that crimes related to marijuana have actually decreased since legalization took effect July 1.
Objections to outdoor growing focus on odor, which can be pervasive as the plants near harvest. But recreational marijuana became legal July 1, which was too late to allow a crop to be grown this season. It's hard to imagine that four plants would be enough to bother neighbors, but the council acted before that could even be determined. And indoor growing should eliminate odor issues.
Mayor Gary Wheeler expressed concern that indoor grows could pose a problem in older homes with outdated electrical wiring. Pacific Power has warned consumers that household electrical service might need to be upgraded to safely handle grow lights. That's the responsibility of the homeowner, not the city.
Councilor Tim Jackle, a lawyer who has been the most outspoken opponent of allowing marijuana in the city, noted that some residents had seen delivery vehicles pulling in front of neighbors' homes and surmised they were illegally shipping marijuana. That seems like a supposition the councilor/counselor would not bring up in his day job.
The 6-2 council vote reflected disagreement from two members, who, it should be noted, are of a different generation than most of the other members, which may explain the discomfort with marijuana in general. Overall, the councilors tend to be conservative, but they apparently are comfortable in imposing their social values in the homes of their constituents.
Ballot Measure 91 legalizing marijuana passed in the county and statewide, but failed in Medford by 42 votes. The council apparently sees that as a mandate. We suggest they recheck with city voters to see if their hypothesis is true.