DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Measure 17.81
Publisher’s Note: From time to time, we simply are tired of our own voice and open this page to a dutiful reader. In the spirit of democracy, this is a op-ed submitted about Measure 17.81 by Chris Hall.
In the upcoming Josephine County Special Election, Measure 17.81 asks voters about banning all OLCC cannabis farms from all sizes of Rural Residential lands. The extraordinary economic development brought on by the cannabis industry in our region will be gutted if Measure 17.81 passes because the commissioners anticipate SB 1057 will pass in Salem that could bring the 2,862 Josephine County OMMP gardens under the OLCC tent. Many cannabis farms are located on Rural Residential lands, and if they all get banned once they become regulated by the OLCC, our local economy will collapse.
Let me restate: the county officials are trying to get a mandate from the voters to write an ordinance banning the OLCC rec farms from RR lands and preempt the OMMP farms from being land-use compatible should SB 1057 pass. This is a strategy the commissioners have deliberately sought to omit from the Explanatory Statement on Measure 17.81 and hide it from the voters. But it gets worse.
The commissioners say in the ballot Explanatory Statement that “Land use systems seek to minimize conflicts between neighbors,” but there are no such conflicts between the OLCC farms they ask the voters to consider banning. The 327 so-called “marijuana-related complaints” the Community Development Director’s office received since August 3, 2016 are solely the result of OMMP and illegal farms. Not one has been filed against an OLLC rec farm, yet measure 17.81 asks to ban only OLCC farms from rural residential because that’s all the commissioners can legally get away with at this time.
Furthermore, the most and worst code violations occur on tracts that are zoned Forest Commercial, Wood Resource, EFU, etc. and not on Rural Residential lands because scofflaws seek far-flung locations to avoid complaints from neighbors. The cannabis farmers on Rural Residential lands know they are being watched and generally seek to be good neighbors. Complaints against OMMP farms in RR lands are about ugly fences and light/ noise pollution, whereas in other zones, the code violations are tremendous and cause extreme negative environmental impacts. Which types of complaints are worse? What do we think the commissioners should prioritize banning, legally mandated fences or illegal grading and water appropriation?
So why would the commissioners be willing to risk the most significant economic development lifeline our region has had since logging? It seems so irrational. Why would they intentionally misrepresent the facts and their motives regarding Measure 17.81? And why ask this question during a Special Election when voter turnout is notoriously low?
It is because of their arbitrary prejudice against cannabis, a bias that is renowned and documented. For one example, they won’t even permit organizations to rent county buildings for anything that appears to be related to cannabis, including farmers’ forums on best practices. Why don’t they respect the huge precedent the State of Oregon set permitting building use? The sheer number of facilities and resources the state has dedicated to the cannabis industry is considerable.
The Josephine County Board of Commissioners is purposefully misrepresenting the facts about the nature of the marijuana-related complaints and where many of the code violations occur to steer the voters’ answer to the Measure 17.81 ballot question to fit the county officials’ bias and prejudice against cannabis. These actions are grossly negligent and breach the putative trust voters have in their elected county officials. Perhaps this subterfuge could be overlooked as business as usual if the future economic development of our region was not at stake.
If the three members of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners were being even partly honest they would have worded their ballot question something like this: “The most egregious code violations occur in far flung lands such as Woodland Resource, Forest Land and EFU zoned tracts by scofflaws seeking to irresponsibly or illegally grow cannabis, so we have asked if you want us to ban all the professional, highly regulated OLCC Recreational cannabis farms instead to mitigate this situation.”
Chris Hall, dancefarm