Brett Eads receives call after call from cannabis businesses that want to grow their plants inside empty warehouses at his former furniture company on South Riverside Drive.
“It’s hard to find anybody to rent them other than for cannabis use,” said Eads, who shut down Eads Furniture and Appliance last year after it had been in operation for more than a century.
Eads thought it would be relatively easy to get permission from the city for marijuana growing on the site, but he discovered indoor marijuana production isn’t allowed on his particular property, which is zoned heavy commercial.
According to city rules, he could have marijuana-extraction facilities or marijuana laboratories inside the warehouses, but not the growing of actual plants. The warehouses are located to the north of Winco shopping center but are tucked back and aren’t readily visible from Riverside Avenue.
Eads made a request to the Planning Commission for a code amendment to allow marijuana production in a heavy commercial zoning district. The Planning Commission will continue its discussion Thursday of Eads’ proposal.
Eads said he and his wife, Trina, don’t have any particular stance on marijuana legalization, but he said the cannabis growers have been great to work with.
“Honestly, for us, it’s a business decision,” he said.
Eads said he’s surrounded by cannabis-related businesses already, including one that sells greenhouses and another that is a cannabis testing laboratory. He’s got someone interested in setting up an extraction business in one of his warehouses, which would conform to city rules.
But Eads said he wants more flexibility to lease out his properties, so he’ll continue to seek approval from the city to allow properties zoned heavy commercial have the ability to grow state-licensed cannabis.
Dan Gilbert, co-owner of Kush Gardens in Medford and Shady Cove, said he’s wanted to lease Eads’ 12,000-square-foot warehouse but has found the city’s planning process frustrating.
“I was very disappointed,” he said. Gilbert said the city didn’t notify him that the Planning Commission had a study session on the issue Jan. 12, but he did receive an apology from one of the planners.
He said he’s unsure why every other type of cannabis operation is allowed in heavy commercial except cultivation. The city enacted the regulations in 2015.
“Cannabis extraction is way more dangerous than cannabis production,” Gilbert said.
Cannabis extraction uses butane or carbon dioxide to release the active ingredient from the marijuana plant. Although home extraction processes have been known to explode, industrial extraction processes use more sophisticated equipment with built-in safeguards.
If it takes six months to complete the planning process, Gilbert said he could wait, noting he has a good working relationship with Eads.
Planning Commissioner Bill Mansfield, who has opposed marijuana legalization in the past, said he has expressed his thoughts against the idea of allowing indoor marijuana growing in a heavy commercial zone.
“I’m generally opposed to it,” he said.
On the other hand, Mansfield said, he wants to hear the arguments in favor of the idea and will try to keep an open mind, though he doesn’t think an appeal based on providing another economic opportunity in Medford is a convincing argument in this case.
“Economic development and planning do not go hand-in-hand,” he said.
Mansfield said one of the reasons properties zoned commercial were excluded from marijuana production is that commercial properties are often located near residential areas. The Eads’ property, however, is surrounded by mostly commercial properties.
He said he may have to abstain from voting on the issue because of his previous statements in opposition to marijuana legalization.
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.