OR: Bend Residents Clash Over Neighborhood Marijuana Grow

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Bend resident Art Johnson and his wife wanted to retire in Bend. But so far, retirement hasn’t been quite as relaxing as they planned, Johnson said.

After Johnson moved into his home in east Bend, the house next door was sold to new neighbors who started using the property to grow medical marijuana. A warehouse next door constantly smells like marijuana and most of the windows are blacked out.

“It’s a strong skunk smell,” Johnson’s wife, Alice, said. “We thought we had a family of skunks.”

While the Johnsons are uncomfortable with what’s going on next door, it turns out the neighbor’s grow operation may be totally legal. Although running a recreational marijuana grow operation in residential neighborhoods isn’t legal, growing medical marijuana is.

This is one example of Bend residents clashing over changes in marijuana rules in the last several years. From people smoking hash oil in downtown parks to growing weed in their homes, a number of Bend residents have complained to city and county officials about the increasing presence of marijuana — legal or illegal.

For example, the Johnsons have dealt with nuisances ranging from water flooding into their backyard to people coming and going at odd hours for the last two years, Art Johnson said.

“These are really nice neighborhoods,” Johnson said. “And it doesn’t belong here.”

But Gil Hildebrand, the property owner, doesn’t agree.

“That’s just a personal (grow) for me and my friend and his wife,” he said. “That’s my house; they just need to get over it.”

While Hildebrand said he lives on the property, his address is listed in Tangent, which is in the Willamette Valley, according to property records.

As cannabis becomes more mainstream, figuring out what’s allowed and what isn’t gets more confusing for residents and law enforcement alike. And for some Bend residents, adjusting to changes since recreational marijuana became legal has been tough.

“I get it. People are calling and they’re frustrated,” said Bend Police Lt. Clint Burleigh. “I understand, it’s new for all of us.”

While Johnson says he doesn’t think marijuana grows should be allowed in residential neighborhoods like his own, state law allows people to grow up to six marijuana plants as long as they’re patients.

Plus, patients can choose someone to grow their marijuana for them — that medical marijuana grower can have up to 12 plants in a city residential zone, or up to 48 plants in a nonresidential zone, according to state marijuana rules. Larger limits can occasionally be granted through a grandfathering process, according to state law.

Meanwhile, anyone over 21 can grow up to four recreational plants per residence, regardless of how many people live there. For example, three adults in one home can only grow four plants.

Since legalization, the city has received only one complaint about a marijuana grow, which was invalid, said James Goff, code enforcement officer for the city. However, those numbers are much higher in the county.

Enforcement on a state and local level is also largely based on complaints from residents, according to city and state officials. When Bend Police get calls from residents complaining about marijuana, police follow up on the call and can ask the Oregon Liquor Control Commission questions, said Burleigh.

“Marijuana in public is the biggest issue,” Burleigh said, adding that in response, police started patrolling Bend’s downtown to crack down on people smoking in public.

Meanwhile, Deschutes County saw a 52 percent increase in code enforcement cases during 2015. The increase has been partially attributed to residents concerned about their neighbors growing medical marijuana and filing a complaint with the county. Some residents worry marijuana farming could decrease property values, while others claim the smell is a nuisance.

“We have to adjust what we believe is appropriate compared to what the state says is normal,” Burleigh said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Bend Residents Clash Over Neighborhood Marijuana Grow
Author: Marina Starleaf Riker
Contact: 541-383-0367
Photo Credit: Kevin Cummins
Website: The Bulletin