Pot fences make good neighbors


March 10, 2016

Pot fences make good neighbors

Mail Tribune
By Damian Mann

Tall fences are sprouting all over the Rogue Valley as pot growers gear up for tough new security measures required by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission this year.

OLCC officials toured the area Thursday to learn what they might expect during inspections — and in the process they learned that the inspections themselves might help spread russet mites from crop to crop.

“A lot of people were hit hard last summer by mites,” said Brent Kenyon, who owns The Wharf in Medford and has been an active member of the cannabis community. “Some lost a quarter-million dollars worth of crops last year.”

OLCC, which will consider ways it can minimize the spread of the mites this summer, will begin its first year of ensuring that commercial recreational marijuana crops are inspected from seed to sale. Members of the Oregon SunGrown Growers’ Guild, which has 100 members statewide, was on hand to help guide the tour, which provided insight into security measures at grow sites.

OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks and OLCC Chairman Rob Patridge toured the area Thursday and listened to recreational growers express concern that they might have difficulty following some of the new rules, including backing 24-hour videos up to the “cloud.” OLCC wants a month’s worth of videos available, which would require a lot of uploading and storage space, particularly if a grow site has multiple cameras.

“It’s physically impossible to back up from this site,” said Eagle Point grower Will Feetham, speaking at a property in Williams. He said Internet access is slow or nonexistent in many parts of Williams, which would make it difficult to get video feeds to OLCC.

“We want to have cameras, but we don’t want to back them up to the cloud,” said Feetham, a member of the SunGrown Growers’ Guild.

OLCC wants the video to monitor what happens to the pot as it’s growing or being processed to make sure it is all accounted for. Also, if a crop is stolen from the property, OLCC would have video evidence to prove that.

Other security issues that came up included fencing. Many rural properties are isolated or have natural boundaries such as creeks that protect them and don’t necessarily require fences. Others along major roadways have high fences, which were being built all over Williams.

Feetham said many roads in rural areas sit higher than adjacent properties, so an 8-foot fence doesn’t effectively conceal the cannabis crop.

“If the fence is higher than 8 feet, then it has to be engineered,” he said. “That makes the cost go through the roof.”

Many growers would prefer to use natural vegetation or some natural feature to block their plants rather than build a fence, which is often a tell-tale sign that marijuana is being grown behind it.

“It’s like a billboard,” he said.

The state statute says the plants must be obscured from easy public visibility, Feetham said.

Feetham was standing in a property that was surrounded on three sides by a $24,000 fence.

Many growers say they have 8-foot fences, but their plants exceed that height for a couple of months in the growing season. One 68-year-old grower wanted to know whether she needed to install fabric material in the summer so people couldn’t see her plants being grown. She said the fabric material is unsightly and often draws attention to pot growers in the valley.

Patridge told the grower, “You’ve made more than a reasonable effort to hide it from the public.” But he said he would need to check on state rules to make sure she had done enough to protect her crop.

Many growers in Williams said theft hasn’t been a problem at their grow sites.

Patridge said OLCC will have to look at grow operations on a case-by-case basis to determine what security measures are necessary.

“It’s not one size fits all,” he said. “We’ve got some flexibility.”

Some locations don’t have electricity, others are very remote and others are located in more visible locations that may require additional security.

“At some properties, we’ll have to say no,” he said.

Growers expressed concern about requirements to store processed marijuana behind a locked door that might be more secure than the building it’s housed in.

“The definition makes it seem like a safe,” Kenyon said.

Kenyon said many of the security measures will have to be decided by the growers themselves.

“It’s a valuable crop,” he said. “You have to have some security.”