County extends hemp moratorium

Board of Josephine County Commissioners Chair Herman Baertschiger brought a “reasonably short” weekly business session to order Wednesday, Nov. 30 at the Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
In what has become an unfortunate routine occurrence, the board declared a local state of emergency related to cannabis, in anticipation of another growing season rife with crime.
As part of the same resolution, the board directed staff to inform the Oregon Department of Agriculture of this declaration and request the suspension of growers’ licenses.
“Basically, this is a moratorium on hemp growing,” commented Baertschiger, “in light of the wild arena of cannabis growing. This should slow things down a little bit because we simply just don’t have the ability to monitor and enforce all this. It’s been overwhelming.”
The board last declared a cannabis state of emergency March 9 of this year. Last Wednesday’s declaration extends the state of emergency for no more than one year, unless next year’s board, which will include Commissioner-elect John West, chooses to prolong it further.
“The Cannabis Advisory Panel did weigh in on this and recommended we extend this moratorium for a second year,” noted outgoing Commissioner Darin Fowler. “We’re not just making this decision in a vacuum; we had some input.”
Amanda Metzler, the chair of the Cannabis Advisory Panel, chimed in via Zoom, saying, “We voted unanimously to continue this moratorium on hemp, and there are three kind of main issues on why this should be continued. Obviously, law enforcement and code enforcement have been doing a great job bringing down illegal grows; adding any new hemp licenses where they can go to hide would add an additional burden.
“The second one is ODA hasn’t made any rules and regulations about unregulated hemp pollen. That’s what you see for cross-pollination of cannabis plants or something you call ‘ditch weed,’ where the plants come back up on their own, and until some rules and regulations get made at ODA on this unregulated hemp pollen, it is a detriment to Josephine County to have that flying around.
“Finally, and most importantly is the water. We do not in Josephine County have aquifers or surface water that would allow mass cultivation of hemp where they’re allowed to grow unlimited acres. So, for those three reasons we voted unanimously and would hope the commissioners do as well to continue the moratorium.”
The board did just that.

Earlier, the second reading of Ordinance 2022-011 was held, which would amend the Comprehensive Plan of Josephine County by adopting a new Transportation System Plan superseding the one that went into effect nearly two decades ago.

At the first reading, JoCo Public Works Director Rob Brandes explained that the TSP serves as a blueprint for his department and how it will designate resources over the coming years.

In partnership with the Portland-based engineering consultant firm Kittelson & Associates, the Josephine County government assessed their entire road inventory and identified all of the projects that could potentially be undertaken over the next 20 years, sorting them into a three-tier system ranked by importance to the people of JoCo.

Over half of the budget will go toward must-do public works operations such as vegetation removal, line restriping and chip sealing. The rest would go to what Brandes coined “financially unconstrained” projects, including bike lane improvements, safety upgrades and non-critical roadway maintenance.

The commissioners voted to approve the new Transportation System Plan by a margin of 3-0.