Tuesday, September 22, 2015

“Intent and Purpose” of Nuisance Code 5.72

This would not be "inside" if it was in my house.

The “Intent and Purpose” of this ordinance is hard to deduce from its statement:
The City Council of the City of Grants Pass recognizes that citizens of the state of Oregon may engage in both recreational and medical use of marijuana in accordance with State law.  However, the City Council also recognizes that cultivating, drying, producing, processing, keeping, or storage of marijuana, without appropriate safeguards in place, can have a detrimental effect on public safety and neighboring citizens.  The City Council finds and declares that the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens are promoted by requiring marijuana cultivators engaged in recreational and medicinal cultivation, drying, producing, processing, keeping, or storage of marijuana to ensure that said marijuana is not accessible, visible, or odorous to other persons or property, or otherwise illegal under Oregon state law.” 
            It says that everything to do with the production of marijuana, without certain “safeguards” can be “detrimental” to public safety and neighbors.  It doesn’t say how it “can be detrimental” or why.  The Council “finds and declares” that the “health, safety, and welfare of its citizens” are served by keeping all of these activities locked away, out of sight, and undetectable by odor, but it doesn’t say why, or what facts produced these findings.  We have the first indication of how unreasonable this ordinance is, in its lack of reasons.
            The public statements of reasons by the City Council, Manager, and Staff have revolved around skunky odor and theft, and odor as a cause of theft.  In an interview on Channel 12, Manager Aaron Cubic said the purpose is to prevent theft.
            This is a nuisance code and its stated purpose is curbing the attraction that marijuana has for thieves.  It is apparently an “attractive nuisance” code written to protect thieves from the impulse to steal this one product, although the words “theft” and “thieves” are nowhere in it.  Nor does it mention any offensiveness of odor, merely the detectable odor of marijuana.
Nuisance codes are normally written to protect children and idiots from hurting themselves on and in property like swimming pools, old refrigerators, and junk cars, not to protect thieves.  Cities don’t normally set standards for security of property from thieves. 
One doubts that these Councilors would do this regarding guns or alcohol, to name two other products stolen by thieves that should be kept from children.  They wouldn’t do this for any pleasure, hobby, or medicine of theirs.  The best thing to do about thieves is to punish them, not lock everything away.
            But that is only the publicly stated, readily apparent intent.  The real intent becomes obvious as one delves into its provisions, starting with Definitions.
“’Indoors/Indoor structure’ means a fully enclosed and secure structure that complies with the Oregon Residential Specialty Code (ORSC) or Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC) as adopted by the City of Grants Pass, which has a complete roof enclosure supported by connecting walls extending from the foundation/slab to the roof.  The structure must be secure against unauthorized entry, accessible only through one or more locking doors, and constructed of solid materials that cannot easily be broken through, such as 2X4 or larger wood studs covered with 3/8” or thicker weather-resistant siding or equivalent materials.  Plastic sheeting, regardless of gauge, or similar products, do not satisfy this requirement.”
            It has to be built like a house or within a house, with no windows (glass would be breakable, and plastic is not allowed) and lockable doors.  This is why the Courier said that a greenhouse was not considered “indoors.”  By this definition, most any house would not be considered “indoors,” and few rooms within one would be either.
            What would be “indoors?” Let's Look at another definition with a strange meaning. 
’Household’ means a housing unit, and includes any indoors structure or accessory dwelling unit in or around the housing unit at which the occupants of the housing unit are cultivating, drying, producing, processing, keeping or storing homegrown marijuana.”
            “Household” normally means the people within a housing unit.  The kind of “household” building that counts as “indoors” in this code is one constructed solidly to housing code, having no windows and lockable doors, a special growing room that must also encompass drying, trimming, cooking, and storage of up to 4 marijuana plants and their products.  It can be separate from the main house.
            One begins to see the real intent: keeping the poor from growing marijuana.  Building a special room inside or outside a house and buying a bunch of indoor growing equipment is prohibitively expensive for poor people, and impractical for the middle class and even the rich.  With the cost of permits, construction, equipment, and electricity, and the damage that growing indoors can do to a house, it would be cheaper and easier to buy one’s pot. 
            But the Council knows how stubborn pot users are about ignoring stupid, impractical, unreasonable laws, and how hard it is to get some people to pay attention to the news and their local governments.  They depend on these to be able to continue their war against pot smokers.
            There is another strange definition that fits this theory.  “’Marijuana cultivator’ means a medical marijuana grower, recreational marijuana homegrower, patient, and any landlord or property owner allowing marijuana to be cultivated, dried, produced, processed, kept or stored at a premises.” 
            This is an old drug war trick: chill the rights of renters, usually poor people, by making landlords liable for their actions.  It is used in the nuisance code against weeds and litter as well, though those codes are rarely enforced in Grants Pass.   The city could hold owners and landlords responsible without twisting the meaning of “cultivator,” but that would be too obvious.  People reading a law often pass over the definitions, expecting them to be common and obvious.  In this ordinance, one has to read them to understand it at all.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040        rycke@gardener.com