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Josephine County Divided on New Marijuana Ordinance

Josephine County commissioners held a land-use public hearing today at the Josephine County fairground pavilion. A large crowd gathered to voice their opinions on new proposed marijuana ordinances.

Posted: Nov. 7, 2018 5:26 PM
Updated: Nov. 8, 2018 10:21 AM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Josephine County commissioners held a land-use public hearing today at the Josephine County fairground pavilion. A large crowd gathered to voice their opinions on new proposed marijuana ordinances.

One would amend the Josephine County Rural Land Development Code. It would bar new commercial marijuana operations in rural residential zones. It would also call for marijuana operations to be set back 150 feet.

Man Josephine County residents spoke passionately about the new ordinance.

Charlyn Witcher owns a small family farm out in Kirby. She inherited the land from her parents and she's seen it completely change because of marijuana grows. Charyln says rural residential areas need to be saved.

"We've put our heart and soul into our property," Witcher explains fondly. "It's a gorgeous place. But it's lost everything, almost everything it meant to us just through the stress of having to deal with all that's around us."

Charlyn spoke at today's meeting.

Others like Dan Loughran see the issue very differently. He owns a lavender farm in Williams.

"I'm a small rural residential farmer," says Loughran. "I have a lavender farm. It's in my daughter's names. They may want to change a crop. They may not want to grow lavender. They may want some day to grow cannabis. But to be banned from doing a single crop, it's prohibitionist in position."

His main complaint is a 150-foot setback included in the ordinance. "Take that all the way around a rural residential five acre piece of property, that's almost an acre off of each side of the property which is the set backs, that's huge," he explains.

Christopher Hall also spoke out at the meeting. He thinks he knows what the end result of the ordinance would be if passed.

"What this ordinance is going to do is that its going to keep them from being able to use their land as farmers for cannabis," he details. "There are going to be just a few dozen non-conforming use, pre-existing uses that will get that preference."

So he's fighting it. "As a hemp grower, I'm not growing cannabis," he explains. "I am here for the people of Josephine County, the Illinois Valley and in specific, the families that have traditionally been able to make a modest and decent income from cannabis."

Still, non-growers are caught in the crossfire.

"We've lived there are entire lives," says Witcher. "I was born and raised where I am now and me and my husband have been there for 45 years. I love where I live."

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