Refresh Checked Unchecked Menu Search Shopping bag Geolocation Person Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube Info Icon CBC Icon CBC Shape CBD Icon CBD Shape CBG Icon CBG Shape THC Icon THC Shape THCV Icon THCV Shape
Advertise on Leafly

Oregon County Sues State Over Cannabis Farming Ban

April 4, 2018
(RylandZweifel/iStock)

SALEM, OR — Officials in an Oregon county who have tried to restrict commercial marijuana production sued the state in federal court, asserting state laws that made cannabis legal are pre-empted by federal law that criminalize it. 

Josephine County, on the California border, is prime cannabis farming country. And the county wants to ban it.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court escalated a long-running battle between the state and the Josephine County Board of Commissioners.

The panel says cannabis farms are a nuisance. The county is in a prime marijuana-producing region of southern Oregon.

Voters in the state legalized cannabis with a 2014 ballot measure, prompting a “green rush” as entrepreneurs set up shop in the fertile, rainy mountainous area.

County Commissioner Dan DeYoung has said rural residents, many of them retirees, are fed up with the proliferating farms in areas zoned as rural residential.

“The good people are leaving and the marijuana people are staying,” DeYoung said, according to the Daily Courier newspaper.

Related

6 Ways to Beat a Local Cannabis Ban

Farmers Have Invested Here

The commission in December tried to ban commercial cannabis farming on rural residential lots of five acres or less and to drastically reduce the size of some larger grow sites.

But the state Land Use Board of Appeals later put those restrictions on hold, saying the county failed to properly notify land owners.

Pete Gendron, a Josephine County cannabis farmer and president of the Oregon SunGrowers’ Guild, said that farmers have invested large sums to start operations and were shocked when the county tried to restrict them.

One farmer had a letter from the county dating back a year or more, stating that cannabis cultivation was farm use and was allowed, Gendron said.

“He invested a half-million dollars in the county,” Gendron said. “He would not have made those investments if not for those assurances.”

Related

How a Cannabis Ban Turned One California County Into ‘Ground Zero for Chaos’

‘We Will Defend the State Law’

The lawsuit by the commission contends the state cannot dictate cannabis regulations over county restrictions because cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“Any person in any state who possesses, distributes, or manufactures marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, or attempts or conspires to do so, is committing a federal crime,” Wally Hicks, a lawyer for the county, wrote in the lawsuit that names state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum as a defendant, along with the state.

Rosenblum’s spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said she can’t comment on pending litigation but noted in an email: “We will defend the state laws of Oregon related to marijuana.”

The lawsuit calls on a federal court in Medford to declare that two ballot measures in 1998 and 2014 that legalized medical and recreational marijuana, respectively, are pre-empted by federal law.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who famously declared that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” recently gave U.S. prosecutors more leeway to pursue federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have legalized cannabis.

The Associated Press's Bio Image

The Associated Press

The AP is one of the world's largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering.

View The Associated Press's articles

  • Gargoylz

    As I posted after another story…

    It irks me to no end that marijuana, a 100% natural plant with a host of positive effects and medical applications, remains stigmatized and criminalized in such an advanced age. Aside from the guns, if you told this same story but replaced marijuana with alcohol, a man-made substance with none of the positive or medical implementations and which is SOLELY intended for intoxication, nobody would bat any eye. The headline would simply read, “Man Has Big Party.” This dichotomy is absurd. Practically every other illicit or intoxicating substance requires some form of processing by man, leading to harmful, even deadly, side effects. Even the majority of the 100% legal pharmaceuticals used for a myriad of medical conditions treatable by marijuana have harmful side effects. These prohibition-age dinosaurs are enacting policy which has an injurious impact on the citizens they are supposed to protect. This HAS to stop.

  • Snegurochka

    These rural county commissioners represent the economic elite of Josephine County; the establishment of financial interests, often known as the “40 thieves”.
    Commissioners like this do not WANT economic development, because then THEY would no longer be BIG FROGS IN A SMALL POND.

  • horsemannv

    This back lash was predictable and I have commented on it again and again. Those who are pro-marijuana have advocated for changing the legal and used name from marijuana to cannabis to upgrade its image. Medical literature should follow suit along with describing in detail the pros of cannabis use vs. the very real dangers of drugs being produced like fentanyl, oxycontin, and others. Legal alcohol is responsible for at least 100 times the amount of domestic violence as cannabis is, if there is any evidence that cannabis promotes violence at all. The history of cannabis being used as a political football, a social construct to continue persecution of people of color and the governments use to further the privatization of all aspects of society and act as the intermediaries of big pharma to eventually allow them sole development of cannabis compounds into synthetic substitutes to be prescribed for profit is all too real. Stand up for your rights and fight this in the streets.