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Remedies are few for hemp bouquet

OK, I’ll admit that a few months ago I was a “hemp smell denier.” Fast forward to fall and, to paraphrase the line from a movie, “I hate the smell of hemp in the morning.” Would you please go over any remedies that individuals or businesses might have with regard to complaining to code enforcement, other agencies or even a lawsuit against a grower? I’m told state law may protect growers. Does a school, medical facility or retirement home have a better chance with a complaint?

— Ted, Medford

If you are inside Medford city limits, you may have some protections against the scent of hemp.

Outdoor growing of hemp — as well as marijuana — is banned in the city’s residential zones. People there can grow a limited number of hemp or marijuana plants for personal use as long as the plants are inside a home or garage. Growing the plants inside a greenhouse is not allowed, according to Eric Mitton, deputy city attorney for Medford.

If you believe the smell is coming from outdoor plants, you can make a complaint by calling Medford Code Enforcement at 541-774-2016.

“They’re always welcome to reach out and make a complaint, and then we can evaluate the situation,” Mitton said.

He said Medford hasn’t fielded any complaints about hemp or marijuana odor leaking from homes or garages in residential zones. There was one complaint about odor related to the indoor drying of plants.

Medford does allow outdoor hemp grows on land zoned for industrial use, he said.

Marijuana is subject to different rules. Marijuana production is allowed in heavy commercial and industrial zones, but it has to be done indoors, Mitton said.

If your house sits on the edge of Medford and borders Jackson County land, you have far fewer protections from odor wafting onto your property.

Hemp is protected under state right-to-farm laws. Odor from agricultural crops, including hemp, is not regulated, according to Jackson County officials.

Hemp production is allowed on resource-zoned property in the county. Other hemp-related activities such as drying, storage and processing may be allowed based on land use codes and zoning regulations. People need to check with Jackson County Development Services for details, especially before they start operations, officials advise.

Hemp became legal in the U.S. when Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill. It has very low levels of THC, the ingredient that causes a high among marijuana users.

Neither the county nor the state regulate the size of hemp grows, although hemp growers do need to register with the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

As for your question about filing a lawsuit, Mitton said the city attorney’s office can’t offer legal advice about one property owner suing another.

“That’s something where someone would need to consult with a private attorney that they retain,” he said.

Across America, odor from marijuana operations has prompted lawsuits.

A judge recently ruled a lawsuit brought by a vineyard against a neighboring marijuana operation can move forward.

Momtazi Vineyard in the McMinnville area claims a repeat customer canceled a six-ton order of grapes over concerns the grapes might be contaminated with the smell of marijuana.

Neighbors in Oregon, California and Colorado have also filed lawsuits against growers over odor, the Associated Press reports.

In one Colorado case, jurors in 2018 returned a verdict in favor of a marijuana grower who had been sued by neighbors. The neighbors argued the odors of marijuana lowered their property value and prevented them from enjoying their land.

This year, a judge ruled California neighbors couldn’t sue a marijuana grower under federal racketeering laws because odors don’t cause the kind of measurable financial losses needed to pursue the case.

The Momtazi Vineyard, Colorado and California lawsuits all relied on federal racketeering laws since marijuana — unlike hemp — is not federally legal.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.