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Speak out on marijuana growing regulations

Alert, fellow Jackson County residents. Do you have any concerns with the growing numbers of marijuana growers in your neighborhoods? A public hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6 at the county courthouse in Medford.

Because this meeting is being held in the middle of a work day, that means that the majority of individuals who are free to attend this hearing will be growers and their supporters. The county commissioners need your input in order to have a balanced picture from the community at large before making decisions that will affect us all for a long time. If you are unable to attend please email the Jackson County Commissioners your concerns and questions beforehand and request that your comments on regulations on marijuana grows be read into the record of public hearing being held Jan. 6.

Understanding that Oregon is a right-to-grow state to protect farmers’ crops, nevertheless, marijuana is a drug, not a food crop. Other than what the state says you can grow for your own personal medical or recreational use, this substance should be grown only on EFU (exclusive farm use) or commercial use land with legal access to water, and significant setbacks should be in place to reduce possible conflict with residents living close to the commercial grows.

When grown for other users, medicinal and recreational marijuana becomes a commercial crop and should not be grown on urban residential or rural residential zoned lands. Most of us living on rural residential property are on wells and are very concerned — after four years of drought — about our water levels, and should not have to drill deeper because of commercial marijuana grows moving into residential areas.

Another concern (besides the bad smell, high fences with barbed wire on top blocking once open views, bright security lights shining throughout the night with cameras, guard dogs left outside barking throughout the night) is how the grows themselves can attract crime into neighborhoods.

Marijuana is a cash crop. The income from it cannot be deposited in federally insured banks because marijuana is still a federally illegal drug. Likewise, the value of the budding crop is so high that many growers hire armed guards who camp out on site. These are reasons for the possibility of increase of crime. If not so, why do so many growers have these precautions around their grows?

Another concern recently reported in the Mail Tribune is power usage. In Colorado there have been reports of heavy power drains on electrical systems and blown transformers, which have led Colorado to enact an energy user tax. In addition there have been structure fires caused by overloaded and non-code wiring used for lighting, air conditioning and humidifiers in year-round growing facilities. Also reported in Colorado and in our own area have been fires to structures caused by the manufacturing of the marijuana oils. These possible dangers would be reduced by having the processing of marijuana restricted to EFU and/or commercial areas with these operations properly inspected.

Consider that in our residential neighborhoods — both urban and rural — there are children growing up and the unregulated grows could allow easier access to and acceptance of drugs at an early age. Also consider the effect these circumstances can have on the property value of our homes as retirement investments.

As a cash crop, how is the income accounted for in order to be taxed so as to afford the additional inspectors that will be needed and additional police officers and equipment required to enforce in-place regulations and handle any increase in crime? Additionally, as a crop that is federally illegal, are federal taxes collected from the income created from the growing and selling of the crop?

When most people I know talk about our county they speak about the clean air, boating, hiking, world-class wine, SOU, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a great place where a lot of folks come to retire, not the justifiable concerns over what your new neighbors might be growing next door.

Please take into consideration how this new law, which did not pass with a large majority vote, will be affecting all our citizens in Jackson County and not just the ones moving here to make a quick buck. If you share any of these concerns or have any others, come to the public hearing or contact your county commissioners.

Earl King lives in Talent.