The Rogue Valley Food System Network Shares Key Insights from Cannabis and Food System Efforts

Regan Emmons
Rogue Valley Food System Network
Mon, 11/13/2017 (All day)

The Rogue Valley Food System Network conducted a year-long effort to gather information about challenges and opportunities that the newly-legalized cannabis industry presents to local food production. The effort was initiated in response to many requests from food producers, cannabis growers, and other community members that the network explore the issue.

Dr. Vincent Smith, a Southern Oregon University professor who led the effort, explains, “The Rogue Valley Food System Network fosters connections and collaborations. We did not enter this work with a policy agenda. Our intent was to facilitate a dialogue that would illuminate the opportunities and challenges associated with a changing landscape and lead to informed decision-making, business ventures, and planning. Our goal, as an organization, was to promote shared understanding.”

The effort began with a stakeholder meeting with invited participants and was followed by a public presentation including an expert panel in July. A video of that session is available on the Network’s website http://rvfoodsystem.org/public-meetings-and-forums. Lastly, the Network hosted community conversations in Grants Pass, Rogue River, Talent, Applegate and the Little Applegate.

Overall, the Network engaged with approximately 300 community members including farmers, concerned citizens, community leaders, medical and recreational cannabis growers, dispensary owners, agency representatives, and breeders.

A preliminary review reveals a consistent set of issues that concern local residents and broad disagreement as to how we mitigate the challenges and fully realize the opportunities presented by the cannabis industry to the food system. For example, concern was expressed about the impact that the cannabis industry is having on the cost and availability of farmland and the impact that is having on the ability to produce food locally. While some people supported food and cannabis production on the same farm, or allowing cannabis production on rural residential property, others suggested consolidating cannabis production and supported Jackson County’s ban on commercial cannabis grows on rural residential property.

Other issues raised included problems stemming from the fact that cannabis is still not legal under federal law, disparities caused by the way tax revenue is disbursed to counties, new impacts on housing, water and labor, corporatization, ecological impacts, and dramatic changes happening in rural communities. Some of the solutions suggested for resolving these issues (such as how tax revenues are shared) would require changes to state law, while others (such as lifting the prohibition of OSU Extension agents to assist cannabis farmers with best practices), would require action by the federal government.

The Network will be sharing all key insights and findings with county and state officials, and will highlight issues that residents identified as the most important to be addressed. A team is working to produce a final assessment of the effort, which will be available on the Network’s website in early 2018.

The Network welcomes additional comments on this topic. Please contact Regan Emmons at coordinator@rvfoodsystem.org or 541-507-7742.

The Rogue Valley Food System Network is a group of individuals, organizations, and businesses who have joined together to strengthen our local food system through collaboration. The Network was formed after a year-long community engagement effort that identified food system resources and needs.

 

Photo: Canna Law Blog