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Ban would affect 1,942 growers

A possible city ban on indoor and outdoor pot gardens would shut down 1,942 state-licensed medical marijuana growers in Medford.

Statistics provided by the Oregon Public Health Division indicate that almost one-third of the 6,070 licensed cannabis growers in Jackson County have a Medford ZIP code.

“I don’t think the city has the right to do this,” said James Carpenter, who has had a medical marijuana card since 1999 and has grown at his south Medford home for 12 years. He pays the state $350 a year for the license to grow his plants, which help him deal with several debilitating conditions.

Medford City Council on Thursday will hold a second reading of an ordinance that would ban outdoor and indoor marijuana grow sites in city limits. The ban would apply to both medicinal and recreational marijuana. The meeting will start at noon at City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St.

Under state law, a medical marijuana patient can grow six plants, while a recreational user of marijuana can grow four plants.

Councilor Clay Bearnson, who voted against the po-growing ban along with Councilor Kevin Stine in the first reading last week, said the Health Authority statistics show how important this issue is to many local residents.

“That is astounding,” he said of the number of medical pot growers in Medford. “I guess that’s 1,942 people who are going to be pissed off.”

Bearnson is a pot grower, but he’s part of a cooperative with other growers who have 96 plants in a rural part of Jackson County. Bearnson also plans to open a dispensary in Medford sometime after Dec. 1.

Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the Oregon Public Health Division, said that as of October 2015, there were 3,438 sites in Jackson County on which 6,070 licensed growers cultivate their marijuana crops. There are 1,269 state-licensed grow sites with a Medford address, or roughly 1.5 growers per garden.

Modie said the state typically reimburses dispensaries who received state licenses but are banned in a particular community. He said he was looking into what kind of reimbursement the state might provide to licensed medical marijuana growers if Medford follows through with the ban Thursday. Modie was not able to provide the information by the end of the day Tuesday.

Carpenter, who owns A Body Mod tattoo shop in Medford, said he suffers from degenerative osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and neuropathy. He said he had three surgeries last year and is anticipating having hip surgery soon. Carpenter said his debilitating health problems make it more and more difficult to be a drummer and musician.

Carpenter, 48, was on a number of pain medications, including a fentanyl patch, until he started using medical marijuana.

“It keeps me off all the pain medications,” he said. “If I didn’t have my ailments, I wouldn’t use medicinal marijuana.”

Carpenter said he keeps his medical pot use to himself and doesn’t smoke it around his teenage children. He said he doesn't smoke cigarettes or consume alcohol.

He said he hasn’t received any complaints from neighbors about the smell of his garden, and Carpenter said he knows of six other neighbors on his street who also have backyard gardens.

Carpenter paid the state about four months ago for his annual license.

Councilor Daniel Bunn said he’s not surprised at the number of growers in the city based on the conversations he’s had with neighbors in his ward.

“There are a lot of people who don’t like it but are afraid to complain,” he said. Medford police have investigated 27 odor complaints over the summer about marijuana grows but no citations were issued.

Bunn said there are pot gardens in his ward, but neighbors are afraid to file a formal complaint for fear of retaliation.

“People don’t want to go on record saying my neighbor does drugs,” he said. “People are afraid of these people, and they should be.”

For the council, this has been a frustrating issue on which to reach a compromise, Bunn said. The council finally approved opening marijuana dispensaries starting Dec. 1, but then voted last week to ban outdoor and indoor grows within the city.

“The marijuana crowd feels like they’re being picked on, but they’re really not,” Bunn said. “Every time we try to find a compromise, they’re never happy.”

Marijuana activists claim that dispensaries are selling pot at cost, but then they complain that it is too expensive to buy cannabis in dispensaries so they need to grow their own, Bunn said.

“The arguments of the medical marijuana community don’t add up,” Bunn said.

Racheal Osborne, who grows medical marijuana along with her husband in south Medford, said she objects to the council’s ban and has grown for years without any complaints.

“It feels like we will have to buy our medicine that we grow for free,” the 34-year-old said. “I can’t afford to pay $10 a gram for medicine.”

Osborne, who has a blood clot in her right shoulder that causes pain and numbness, said dispensaries charge more than what it costs her to grow because the price of cannabis at a store includes everything required to grow it as well as the overhead involved in running a business. “I don’t have to worry about any of that,” she said.

Osborne said she was hoping to grow indoors this year, but now the council is telling her that she can’t do it inside her own house.

“It’s another way for the people to hold onto the old ways and keep prohibition alive,” she said. “It’s really sad.”

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

James Carpenter, 48, smokes marijuana to help with debilitating conditions. Carpenter, who has been growing medical marijuana for 12 years, thinks Medford's proposed ban is unfair and hurts medical marijuana patients. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch