Divided By Marijuana!

July 4, 2008

Phoenix, Oregon — Stephen Vinzant says he has been growing marijuana at his residence legally for three years and has a state-issued medical marijuana card to prove it. His next-door neighbors — who run a counseling center for recovering drug addicts — are not impressed.

Their differences will get a public airing Monday when Phoenix Counseling Center owner Keziah Hinchen will attempt to convince City Council members that they should put an end to Vinzant’s outdoor pot crop.

Hinchen plans a presentation to the council outlining the difficulty of assisting people with substance abuse issues while a “fresh crop is growing right next door.”

Vinzant said he moved to the property three years ago, at which time he began growing the state allowed crop of 12 mature plants and 36 immature plants.

Half of the plants are for Vinzant’s mother, who suffers from chronic restless leg syndrome and the other half are for Vinzant, a Vietnam-era vet who said he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a bad back and arthritis.

During the past two growing seasons, Vinzant said, “no one squawked about anything.”

Then the treatment center changed ownership, a client discovered the plants during last year’s harvest and, Vinzant said, “totally freaked out.”

Hinchen said the counseling center serves as an extended campus for local schools by providing services to adolescents with substance abuse issues “and something like 85 to 95 percent of them have issues with marijuana.”

“So here’s this guy and he’s got this great big marijuana garden in his backyard,” Hinchen said. “The plants are 20 feet away from the fence — 20 feet away from people who have addiction issues. When it starts getting ripe, you can smell it. So here we’re saying, ‘Stay away from marijuana’ and here it is. They smell it, they see it . . . it’s right there!”

Vinzant said he’s “done everything humanly possible” to accommodate the center’s concerns, including building an enclosure around the plants.

Hinchen will argue before the council that the marijuana plants represent an intrusion into what should be a drug-free zone for school areas. She said she wouldn’t object if he grew the plants indoors and out of sight.

“All we’re asking is for them to approve a 100-foot drug-free zone,” she said. “I’m completely happy with 100 feet, which means he can’t do it in his backyard. He could just do it indoors.”

“Our position is, if you possess marijuana within a thousand miles of a school there are heavy penalties. We serve adolescents and are, essentially, a school.”

She added, “Anybody who knows anything about working with addictive substances will know that half the trick is to stay away from it.”

Jackson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Rick Valentine said state laws regarding medical marijuana use are tricky to navigate.

“I don’t know of anything in the statutes that prohibits having a medical marijuana grower next to a rehabilitation center,” he said.

“We’ve had calls where people complained about their neighbor growing medical marijuana but they’re within state law. From our standpoint, it’s been a difficult law to enforce on both sides — for the folks that have legal prescriptions and the people that don’t.”

City Manager Jane Turner said council members would request legal advice from city attorney Kurt Knudsen on how to deal with the issue and likely would appoint a committee to research the issue.

“At least we can get it on the table and everybody can voice their opinions,” Turner said.

The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the city’s public works annex, 1000 South B St.

Note: Owner of the Phoenix Counseling Center says a neighbor’s medical marijuana patch is too strong a temptation for her clients.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford.

Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)

Author: Buffy Pollock for the Mail Tribune

Website: http://www.mailtribune.com/

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