Oregonians Say County Targets Pot Growers

     (CN) — Three Oregon farmers say Jackson County is trying to weed out farmers who legally grow marijuana by targeting them with laws it doesn’t use against farmers who grow other crops.
     Sandra Diesel, Sandra Gross and Steve Hunt sued Jackson County in Jackson County Circuit Court on Thursday. They claim they are licensed to grow medical marijuana on their properties, but Jackson County used a tricky interpretation of state law allowing the growth of marijuana to stamp out the practice.
     The county, tucked in the southwest corner of the state and home to more than 200,000 people, outlawed the growth of marijuana on land zoned for rural residential use. It still allows marijuana cultivation on land zoned for forest and farming.
     State law defines marijuana as a “crop,” which the county allegedly says its comprehensive plan prohibits on land zoned for rural residential use. But Jackson County lets farmers grow other types of crops on rural residential land, according to the May 26 complaint.
     Portland lawyer Ross Day is representing the plaintiffs.
     “If the county is right, and farm use in general is not allowed on rural residential land, then there are thousands of people — not just marijuana farmers, but farmers of all sorts — that could be subject to prosecution,” Day said in an interview. “That’s ludicrous. It’s not what legislature intended with its recent marijuana legislation and it’s certainly not what the law intends for farmers.”
     Day said the move was calculated to end marijuana cultivation in Jackson County by outlawing its growth on the type of land marijuana growers prefer.
     Building a home on land zoned for farm and forest use is tightly regulated and only allowed under narrow conditions, and it’s tough for farmers to guard a profitable crop that is vulnerable to theft when they can’t live on their own farm, Day said.
     “It makes the most sense to grow marijuana on rural residential land, rather than farm land,” Day said. “If you have a highly valuable crop, you want to grow on piece of property where somebody is living and they can keep an eye on it. And that’s rural residential. For the overwhelming majority of people, rural residential is the only place they can safely grow marijuana.”
     The county’s position also prevents the farmers from taking advantage of farming tax exemptions for growing marijuana, according to the 18-page complaint.
     “There is no justification for the unequal treatment imposed by Jackson County against the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states.
     Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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