Medford, Ore. -- Do you know what could be growing next to your child's school?
According to Medford Police, legal medical marijuana grows are in some cases cropping up right against the school yard.
It's something a lot of parents don't know about.
"It just shocks me," said one parent who spoke with NBC 5 News.
Lt. Kevin Walruff who is a part of the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team, said in some cases he's seen medical marijuana plants hanging over into school yards.
"I have been to several that have been well within the reach of children," said Walruff.
"I had no idea that that was even possible that is that near to our children. I think it's horrible," said Medford parent Jacque Schmidt.
"I think that's kind of scary, I think medical marijuana has its purpose but I think that's a very scary thought," said another Medford parent, Lori Brockbank.
"They shouldn't be able to even live near a school," added Ben Valdez, a parent who resides in Medford.
What the law says about private medical marijuana grows
However, legally private growers can live next to a school. The laws for them, different than those for a dispensary which cannot be within 1000 feet of a school or another dispensary.
"There's no current regulations on where a medical marijuana grow site can be put," began Walruff.
"There's no limit on how big they (the plants) can be," he continued.
According to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, he's right. While the statute prohibits medical marijuana use in a public place, in public view or in a correctional facility, Walruff said the "public view" part of the law does not apply to growing. However, one medical marijuana advocate we spoke with said the community generally views the statute
Southern Oregon: A popular place for cannabis growers and cardholders
"We're looking at over 7000 patients and probably over 5000 growers," said Walruff.
According to the Jackson County Health Department and Medford Police, Jackson County ranks second in the state for number of Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cardholders. Southern Oregon's warm climate is a big draw.
"The reality is there is probably a grow site located near all of our schools in the county both Jackson and Josephine," said Shawn Martinez, Josephine County Prevention and Treatment Coordinator.
In addition, officials said they don't know exactly where or how many medical marijuana grow sites there are.
"If we have a concern or we have a complaint, we can call into the OMMP or if we have an address they will then tell us if there's a grow site," Walruff explained.
Grower speaks out
One grower we spoke with, who would only identify himself as Brian and did not want to be on-camera, said growers who do not maintain their plants give the rest of them a bad name.
"Not to mention you could be exposing a child to a controlled substance. I can't imagine who would do that," he said.
Some say medical marijuana growing near schools not a big deal
Others said they think the hysteria over medical marijuana growing near schools is overblown.
"We take our kids into Safeway all the time and there's beer and wine available there," said Claudia Little a retired nurse practitioner and OMMP cardholder.
Meanwhile, medical marijuana grower Brian said if he sees someone else's marijuana plants hanging onto school property, he's calling it into authorities.
"Lookout because the other growers will call the police on you," he warned.
What happens if police are called?
However, even if police are called to check up on a situation where medical marijuana may be hanging into a school yard, all they can do is ask a grower to trim their plants. Authorities say they can't necessarily force the grower to do it, but there could be grounds for charges if a child gets a hold of the marijuana.
While police said there are no rules regarding where or how large a private grow can be, there are rules about the number of a plants a grower may have.
"A patient can possess six mature plants, 18 seedlings or starters and a pound and a half of processed marijuana," said Walruff.
"A grower can possess that for four people. So if a grower is in a house and they have five cards, they can wind up having six plants for all five of those cards," he added.
rules about plants
What other Rogue Valley police agencies are saying
While medical marijuana grows are close to schools in each of the valley's cities, police in Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Central Point say they haven't had to deal specifically with marijuana plants hanging over into school yards.