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Medford bans pot greenhouses, allows home delivery

Medford City Council banned greenhouses for cannabis growing Thursday night, but it approved home delivery of marijuana.

The council voted 7-1 to allow residents to grow marijuana only in their houses or in attached garages. Detached garages built before the ordinance was enacted can also be used to grow marijuana. But any new detached garages will be off limits for growers.

On a 5-3 vote, the council permitted home delivery of both medical and recreational marijuana from stores licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Mayor Gary Wheeler threatened to veto various efforts to allow greenhouses, including attempts by some councilors to come up with language that would require the greenhouses to be more secure.

“I think we are going against the will of the people who didn’t want outdoor grows,” Wheeler said, referring to a 2016 outdoor-grow ban approved by voters that took effect in 2017.

Wheeler said he could live with allowing marijuana grows in garages and houses, but he wasn’t “thrilled” with the idea.

He said marijuana is so widely available at stores that he didn’t see the need to allow growing in backyards in the city.

After hours of debate, the council compromised on allowing existing detached garages, but Councilor Clay Bearnson, who grows marijuana in the county and owns a cannabis store, couldn’t stomach the compromise.

“I refuse to vote with a gun to my head,” he said, casting a protest “no” vote on the detached garages proposal.

Bearnson said he checked with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission to make sure it was legal for him to vote on marijuana-related issues because of concerns about a potential conflict of interest.

The city had 32 complaints last year about backyard greenhouse grows, and some councilors scratched their heads over why the council was so concerned about greenhouse grows and the home delivery of marijuana.

“How many of these whopping 32 complaints are resolved?” Bearnson said. “I’m failing to grasp what are the concerns.”

Medford police Sgt. Don Lane said most backyard growers either removed the plants or put them indoors after code enforcement received the complaints.

Councilor Kevin Stine, who noted the council frequently worries about things such as marijuana stores only to find their worries were unfounded, said 32 complaints doesn’t warrant a ban on greenhouses.

“Why are we here today?” he said.

Councilor Kay Brooks said it would be an economic hardship on many Medford residents if they weren’t allowed to grow in greenhouses.

“Marijuana is not cheap,” she said.

Brooks calculated that four plants in a backyard would yield about 4 pounds of marijuana. She said that buying that much marijuana would be equivalent to buying 27,000 eggs, a reference to the council’s recent debate over allowing chickens in backyards.

Growing indoors would be much more expensive, requiring the purchase of lights, Brooks said. She favored allowing greenhouse grows as an economically better option than indoor growing.

“It’s wrong to deprive people of this ability,” she said.

Councilor Tim D’Alessandro said marijuana was helpful for a family member who was sick.

“I don’t want to deprive anybody of marijuana,” he said.

D’Alessandro said he would support an ordinance to allow greenhouse grows if there was some way to ensure they had adequate security.

D’Alessandro voted against home delivery of marijuana and criticized OLCC for allowing it while not allowing home delivery of alcohol.

“The OLCC dropped the ball,” he said. “I can’t have a bottle of vodka delivered to my house.”

Stine, who voted for home delivery, said, “The council is pro-business, unless it’s something you don’t agree with.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or . Follow him on .

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