Jackson County code enforcement officers will difficulty tickets extra rapidly for cannabis operations that violate codes, fairly than specializing in voluntary compliance first. File picture
Efforts to realize voluntary compliance ineffective
Jackson County code enforcement officers will begin issuing citations extra rapidly in opposition to marijuana and hemp operations that violate codes, fairly than persevering with with a drawn-out voluntary compliance method that has confirmed ineffective in opposition to the seasonal crops.
By the time code enforcement officers get by means of the monthslong technique of attempting to assist folks get in compliance, growers have typically harvested their crops, pocketed the money and moved on with out dealing with penalties, county officers mentioned.
The cycle repeats itself the subsequent yr as neighbors watch in frustration.
Complaints about marijuana and hemp operations have skyrocketed together with the proliferation of the crops in Jackson County. With its supreme rising setting, the county has probably the most marijuana and hemp grows within the state.
Since January, 61% of complaints to county code enforcement officers have been cannabis-related, mentioned Jackson County Development Services Director Ted Zuk.
Cannabis is an umbrella time period that features marijuana and hemp.
Zuk mentioned within the first 5 months of this yr, code enforcement officers have investigated extra cannabis circumstances than in all of 2020.
Last yr, the county’s three code enforcement officers averaged 162 energetic circumstances every.
“Right now, they’re at 320, and it’s only May,” Zuk mentioned. “So that’s the extent of the problem. Everybody is getting more phone calls about how ineffective code enforcement is. There’s a reason for that ― because the workload is just daunting.”
Jackson County has requested the Oregon Legislature to allocate cash so the county can rent three extra code enforcement officers and an workplace assistant to deal with the workload.
Oregon voters legalized leisure marijuana in 2014, and the federal authorities legalized hemp as an agricultural crop in 2018. Marijuana accommodates compounds that get customers excessive and it’s extra intently regulated, whereas hemp is grown for medicinal or industrial use. It’s tough to inform the distinction between the 2 crops within the discipline with out testing.
Jackson County has lengthy had a soft-touch coverage with regards to code enforcement. But that method was adopted earlier than the legalization of leisure marijuana and hemp, mentioned County Administrator Danny Jordan.
“People wait us out until they can harvest their product,” he mentioned.
Code enforcement points cowl a variety of issues comparable to rubbish and damaged down autos accumulating on a property, folks constructing greenhouses for cannabis with out permits, or staff dwelling alongside cannabis grows in leisure autos. The points are much less extreme than felony exercise dealt with by legislation enforcement, however they’ll hurt the setting and damage the standard of life for neighbors.
Jackson County’s coverage has been for code enforcement officers to tell folks concerning the guidelines and assist them get into compliance.
Code enforcement has additionally been complaint-driven, which means the county needed to first obtain a criticism earlier than a code enforcement officer might take motion.
For instance, a code enforcement officer might be driving out to research a cannabis case after receiving a criticism a few property and see a half-dozen properties violating codes alongside the best way. But the officer couldn’t take any motion in opposition to these different properties with out first receiving a criticism, mentioned Jackson County Counsel Joel Benton.
Jackson County commissioners agreed this week to alter the coverage so code enforcement officers can provoke an investigation right into a cannabis operation with out first receiving a criticism. Officers also can difficulty citations in cannabis circumstances with out first going by means of the lengthy technique of looking for voluntary compliance.
Commissioner Rick Dyer mentioned cannabis legalization has created new realities and new impacts that require a extra proactive code enforcement method.
The quicker and extra proactive method gained’t resolve all of neighbors’ frustrations with marijuana and hemp operations. Much of the exercise is authorized, Benton famous.
Some agricultural operations comparable to authorized slaughterhouses generate complaints, however they’re permitted agricultural makes use of. The similar is true for a lot of cannabis operations, he mentioned.
Jordan mentioned property homeowners who lease their land for cannabis grows and processing amenities ought to be sure these operations are authorized.
Unscrupulous growers might abandon property homeowners to face the implications of citations alone, which embody fines and potential liens and foreclosures.
In 2018, Jackson County raised the utmost nice for code violations from $10,000 to $20,000 in an effort to get higher compliance from marijuana operations. County officers mentioned on the time many growers have been undeterred by $10,000 fines as a result of their operations have been so worthwhile.