marijuana

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

There was a certain amount of trepidation in Humboldt County about the legalization of marijuana in California; first medical, then recreational.  In some parts of the county, people had been growing cannabis in the shadows for generations. 

With legalization comes regulation and rules and bookkeeping and taxation.  And it's been a hard transition for growers in the so-called Emerald Triangle, a situation reported by Emily Witt in The New Yorker.  

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150 feet can make a big difference.  California's Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use in the state, allows municipalities to set buffers between cannabis-based businesses and places frequented by children, like schools. Many jurisdictions have opted for 600-foot buffers, which were advised, but not required, by the state.

When the Mount Shasta City Council voted recently to set the buffers at 450 feet, it got an earful from opponents.  Tom Scovill, for one, is not happy about what he sees as the city promoting marijuana businesses; he circulated petitions to force a public vote on the issue.  The Council will discuss the matter again at its June 10 meeting.

The small Siskiyou County town of Weed, Calif., finally embraced linking its name to marijuana by holding a Four Twenty Educational Weed Festival this year.  On April 20, of course.

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The legal cannabis industry is certainly making the dollars flow in Northern California.  Example: business property that sat vacant for years got buyers--from cannabis-related businesses--soon after legalization. 

Shasta Gateway Industrial Park in Shasta Lake City sold off its last three undeveloped parcels in the boom.  There are some particular twists in the activity in a mostly cash-only industry. 

Chuck Grimmett

The acres and acres of land in the region planted in cannabis should have been a clue: growers were making too much product. 

The glut of marijuana crashed the market, bringing prices way down.  Great for consumers, but economically hazardous for the growers. 

There is one spot that may be bright for producers but a concern from other angles: marijuana usage appears to be on the rise in Oregon and in the other states that legalized weed for personal, recreational use. 

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis tracks the trend. 

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People growing marijuana illegally in the forest don't care much who owns the forest. 

So while you hear plenty about illegal grows on federal Forest Service land, there have been many on tribal land in Northern California, too.  Have been, past tense, says the Yurok tribe. 

The tribe recently paused Operation Yurok, which focused on removing all large-scale pot grows on Yurok land. 

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The federal government says marijuana is just plain illegal.  The state says it's legal for medical and recreational use. 

That's one level of complication... now what about at the local government level? 

Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan says the phone rings a lot at county offices, with people asking questions about what is and is not legal in the growing of cannabis. 

Governments on both sides of the state line are working hard to keep up with the legalization of marijuana.  But the process is not without its problems or complaints. 

The environmental group Friends of the Eel River is taking the Humboldt County supervisors to court. 

The group says the new land-use regulations for legal cannabis grows in the county lack environmental protections. 

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Growing cannabis is now legal in both California and Oregon, but that doesn't mean all the practices involved with growing it are legal. 

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Oregon is producing way more cannabis than its population can use.  The state's U.S. attorney said so recently, and warned the federal government would crack down on the black market, particularly growers sending product out of state, illegal under federal and state law. 

Law enforcement aside, the glut of pot has sent prices sharply lower, affecting the solvency of cannabis-based businesses. 

Peter Gendron leads the Oregon SunGrowers Guild and Peter Gross runs Green Valley Wellness in Talent. 

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Josephine County Commissioners upset a lot of marijuana farmers when they passed a new ordinance in December. 

It bans commercial cannabis farming on rural residential lots five acres or smaller and creates other new regulations. 

In the eyes of the farmers who use such lands, the county "stole their business."  Attorney Ross Day represents cannabis growers. 

If you've only been paying attention to marijuana laws for a couple of decades, it can look like pot is on a bit of a high of its own. 

State after state, including California and Oregon, has legalized marijuana for medical or personal use or both.  This moment looked like a sure thing a couple of generations ago. 

But then a backlash began against marijuana and other drugs. 

Emily Dufton tracks the trajectory in Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America

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Jackson and Josephine Counties are regarded as two of the most productive counties in Oregon for growing marijuana. 

But the productivity could change in Josephine County this year, now that a new ordinance is in place.  It bans commercial cannabis farming on rural residential lots five acres or smaller and creates other new regulations. 

They are not yet in effect (that happens March 5), but it will be Julie Schmelzer's job to implement them, as Community and Economic Development Director for the county.  She provides details of the current situation and where things might go from here. 

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This week marks a seismic shift for California: It’s now legal for adults 21-and-older to buy marijuana for recreational use.

Voters set this change in motion when they approved Proposition 64 in November 2016. And a state-sanctioned marketplace for recreational cannabis is a big deal.

The Josephine County Board of Commissioners voted to adopt rules that ban cannabis farming on rural residential lots that are 5 acres or smaller.

The Grants Pass Daily Courier reports the county passed the new rules Wednesday night. The board did not determine when they will take affect. 

Opponents have threatened a lawsuit or an appeal to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

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First came the grapes, then came the pot.  Southern Oregon agriculture switched many properties from pears to wine grapes in recent years. 

Now the hot cash crop is cannabis.  And there's already evidence of disgruntlement about marijuana's possible effect on nearby vineyards, concerns about flavors and odors of cannabis creeping into the wine grapes. 

Maureen Battistella built the "Wine of Southern Oregon" collection at Southern Oregon University; Mark Wisnovsky runs Valley View Winery and grows hemp for CBD; Katherine Bryan runs Deer Creek Vineyards and grows cannabis as Bryan Family Farm.

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Where once methamphetamine labs concerned police, now it's BHO operations: butane honey oil labs. 

Pretty name, but volatile process; it extracts the main "high" chemical from marijuana through the use of butane or propane.  You could flunk chemistry and know those substances are prone to explosion. 

Josephine County's sheriff and other police agencies report 10 lab seizures and two explosions this year.  The seizures are tops in Oregon, and a cause for concern for both police and fire agencies like Illinois Valley Fire District

Jackson County Doubles Cannabis Violation Fines

Nov 20, 2017
MEDFORD MAIL TRIBUNE / File Photo

Jackson County is raising its maximum fine from $10,000 to $20,000 for code violations — in part because officials say owners of illegal marijuana grows are undeterred by the threat of a $10,000 fine. “A lot of people are being impacted by people who are ignoring our ordinances,” said Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer. Commissioners discussed the fines during a work session in October, then voted this month on whether to raise fines. Dyer and Commissioner Bob Strosser voted to increase a variety of minimum and maximum fines.

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You can be forgiven for not keeping up with the legalization of marijuana in Oregon and California.  The two states adopted legal pot at different times and through different pathways. 

Another shoe drops in California on January 1, 2018, when licensing for recreational cannabis sales is due to open. 

Oregon still has some procedures to work out as well, and then LOCAL jurisdictions are still figuring out what restrictions they want. 

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is in charge of non-medical marijuana; Danica Hibpshman of OLCC visits. 

She is joined by Brooke Staggs, who writes of cannabis in The Cannifornian

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Marijuana is now officially out in the sunshine in Oregon and California, legal to grow and legal to use.  But that doesn't mean the practices that developed to make and market cannabis during the prohibition years have changed. 

Journalist Nick Johnson demonstrates how the industry continues to use old, environmentally damaging practices even though the purported reasons for them no longer exist. 

Johnson's book is Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West, from Oregon State University Press.      

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