MEDFORD, Ore. — The pungent smell of hemp during harvest season has some parents concerned — especially when the fields are no more than a few yards from school.
Rodney Tester’s son is a third-grader at Griffin Creek Elementary, a school that has a hemp field right next door. The school sits on Griffin Creek Road, just south of Stage Road in Medford's southwest corner.
“If the kids look out their classroom window while they’re washing their hands all they see is a humongous hemp field,” said Tester.
The field is just steps away from the playground, separated by a chain link fence.
“I would like to see some more regulations, maybe the hemp field a little farther back,” said Tester.
It's not an uncommon complaint in southern Oregon of late. With the recent federal legalization of industrial hemp, and an already thriving but oversaturated cannabis market in the area, hemp farms have exploded in popularity.
Tester says he doesn’t have a problem with people growing hemp, but he wishes that there was more distance between the crop and kids.
“I don’t care what they do, I want everyone to make money but it doesn’t need to be right on their playgrounds,” said Tester.
It’s not just the proximity that has parents concerned.
“You couldn’t smell it then but you can smell it now, I mean, I can smell it in my house a half-mile away,” said Tester.
Since it is legal for hemp to grow in close proximity to schools, the only thing the school can do is shut windows and doors and turn off outside air, the same way they respond to smoke during fire season.
“If there was legislation that looked to be reasonable, that would create a little bit more distance . . . then we would potentially support that,” said Natalie Hurd, the communications specialist for the Medford School District.