Jackson County, Ore. — While recreational marijuana has only been legal in Oregon since July 1st of last year, pot has long been a part of the Southern Oregon landscape. But now, legalization has led to explosive growth.
“There were vast areas in town where you would have a field with cows, a subdivision. It was really a patchwork,” said Re-Max Platinum Agent Gail Schoeneberg. She’s been in real estate for 11 years, but she’s lived in Medford for more than 30. “When we got back here in ’82, it was kinds of sleepy little rural town, you know, mainly, timber industry was the main employer.”
But a different industry has come along and changed everything–including real estate: Marijuana grows. Schoeneberg said, “They’re like mushrooms, they’re just sprouting up all over, and areas that I was just in a few months ago, that didn’t have anybody, now all of a sudden, the telltale 8-foot wooden fence is there.”
Working mainly in rural areas, she sees both buyers and sellers. “This is an opportunity for them. They’re going, ‘You know, there’s people out there that want my type of land, and they’re willing to pay a good price for it.’” That has nearly doubled the Kelly Madding’s workload. She’s Jackson County’s Development Services Director.
Madding said the zoning required to grow marijuana covers a large part of the county—816,000 acres, out of 2 million total. “Basically, people can grow marijuana in nearly half of Jackson County,” said Madding. “It’s a little bit less than half, but it’s approaching that.”
And while marijuana can be grown on nearly half the county’s land, there’s no record available on the number or acres of grows that there are. However, there are records of medical grow sites.
Madding said, “In 2015, we had about 9,000 medical marijuana patients in Jackson County, and about 5,000 growers, on about a little over 3,000 grow sites.”
That information is available online through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, or OMMP.
In January of this year, there were 3,247 reported grow sites in Jackson County alone. The top five Oregon counties in order are Multnomah, Lane, Jackson, Josephine, and Clackamas.
But on both sides, Madding said there are hoops to jump through before putting a grow on Jackson County land. “Both medical and recreational marijuana growers have to come into the county to get a permit now, since March 16th of this year.”
But they can only grow on certain types of land: Exclusive farm use land, woodland resource, forest resources, and open space reserve.
Those are the same zoning requirements for a winery.
“We planted this block in 2005,” said Bill Steele. He owns Cow Horn Vineyard and Garden in the Applegate. He’s seen the rapid growth of marijuana near his property.
“The new grows clearly have fencing,” he said. “A few of them have cameras, so I would, as I would venture to guess they’re not growing radishes inside that enclosure.”
Some of Schoeneberg’s buyers don’t want to live next to a pot grow. One client was forced to expand their search into Josephine County. She added, “Everything that we found that was zoned, you know, E.F.U., pasture land, especially irrigated, there was a marijuana farm, typically, right next door.”
It took a year, but they finally found a property near a grow–not next to one.
You can read more medical marijuana statistics from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program HERE.