A growing concern

The Phoenix City Council is well within its rights to consider limits on medical marijuana growing in residential neighborhoods. It's an issue cities across the state will be dealing with as the growing season gets under way.

Phoenix officials are responding to complaints from residents about the odor from outdoor marijuana plants that interferes with their enjoyment of their own yards in the summertime. One resident said she and her husband were forced to stop using their large backyard because the smell from a neighbor's 12- to 15-foot-tall marijuana plants was so strong it burned her eyes.

It is legal to grow medical marijuana in Oregon. But there is no reason why it should be treated any differently than other agricultural activities.

Cities have ordinances limiting commercial agriculture in residential zones, and for good reason. Livestock raising is usually prohibited in cities because of the nuisance factor from manure smells, among other concerns.

Some cities have adopted ordinances permitting residents to keep chickens in residential yards, but under strict limits on the number of birds, setbacks from property lines and the like. Roosters are generally banned because of noise concerns.

By the same token, it is reasonable for city ordinances to require marijuana plants to be situated a minimum distance from neighboring properties. If that does not prevent the odor from affecting neighbors' enjoyment of their own property, it would be reasonable to require growing to be done indoors.

Phoenix City Manager Eli Naffah says effects on public health also might be discussed, but it seems unlikely that odor alone would pose any health risk.

Kurt Knudsen, the Phoenix city attorney, is planning to attend a conference of city attorneys from around the state next month, where the topic of marijuana-growing ordinances will be discussed.

It's tempting for people to see issues such as this from a property rights perspective. Individual liberty and freedom from government interference is an American tradition. But so is the principle of respecting the rights of others.

As the old saying goes, my right to swing my fist ends at my neighbor's nose. The same could be said for the freedom to grow a pungent plant.

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