In a recent article in The Bulletin, the Central Oregon daily newspaper serving Bend and surrounding areas, Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson voiced his opposition to the legal marijuana industry in his jurisdiction.

“I am worried”, he said, regarding marijuana production and pending county land-use applications to grow marijuana legally.  “I see an opportunity to stop this here, and I would encourage those applications to be denied.”

Apparently Nelson is incensed by the idea that the state and the county have opted in on an industry that is still illegal under federal law.  In an “impassioned” speech (The Bulletin’s words) before the county commission, Nelson cited a fear of declining property values and livability concerns for the rural areas of the county.

If the sheriff had access to google, however, he could quickly deduce that property values in areas where marijuana cultivation is legal have seen an extraordinary spike, particularly in Colorado (where there is a long enough timeline to provide conclusive data).

Some anti-marijuana folks are even citing the high cost of property as one of the unfortunate byproducts of legalization. You read that right: Cannabis opponents are complaining that marijuana farms are RAISING property values.

As for “livability”, the Bulletin article didn’t specify precisely what Nelson was referring to.  The most commonly cited complaint is odor, which is not likely to be an issue in Deschutes County where indoor growing is the only form of growing allowed, and a professionally designed and installed odor-control system is a prerequisite to licensing.

Moreover, smell is in the nose of the beholder.  Is the scent of a less-than-1-acre marijuana grow really more “unpleasant” than the aroma of animal feces on a 12-acre feedlot?  What about the people who don’t enjoy the dog-food aroma from a brewery, or for that matter the noxious smoke pouring from the tailpipes of countless diesel pickup trucks, which are so common in rural areas?

Most troubling of all, members at the meeting expressed interest in hiring a full-time detective, devoted exclusively to policing marijuana crimes.  This, at a time when the state of Oregon (along with several other states) are coming to the conclusion that the decades-long strategy of prohibition and over-policing of marijuana has failed miserably.

Oregon licensees would be happy to see increased code enforcement, and steps taken to ensure that black market activities do not sabotage the legitimate market with lower prices while cutting corners.  However, Sheriff Nelson’s comments at the Commissioners meeting seem to indicate a more sinister opposition to all marijuana cultivation, illicit or regulated.  Certainly, our state and local law enforcement officials should be focused on enforcing local laws, rather than taking federal enforcement into their local hands.