Josephine County officials have suffered a setback in an ongoing effort to crack down on cannabis grows in the county — but a far weightier fight is still in play.
On Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed an opinion by state officials that the southern Oregon county hadn't provided adequate notice last year when it passed land use rules that tightly limit marijuana production.
That ordinance outlawed commercial growing operations on plots of land that were 5 acres or less and zoned for rural residential purposes. For larger parcels, the law set limits on the size of growing operations well below what's allowed under state law.
Cannabis growers appealed the ordinance, winning a ruling from the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals that said the process for passing the law was improper. In its decision Wednesday, the appeals court agreed, but did not issue an opinion laying out why.
"This is kind of what we expected," said Ross Day, the Portland attorney representing Josephine County growers. "The law's pretty clear on this."
Another ongoing case could have far greater reach.
In April, county officials filed a federal suit against the state, seeking to convince a court that Oregon's cannabis laws run afoul of federal drug restrictions, which list it as a controlled substance on par with heroin. The county says this conflict should allow it to crack down on cannabis production as it sees fit.
Cannabis industry attorneys have decried the suit, saying it could have implications nationwide if the county is successful.
The Oregon Department of Justice, meanwhile, is defending the state's laws in court, and has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.