Clackamas County commissioners want priority for marijuana-related violations of zoning and development regulations — and penalties that may exceed the $3,000 daily maximum for other code violations.

The commissioners directed Scott Caufield, the county’s code enforcement manager, and county lawyers to come up with specific recommendations by mid-April.

Caufield said county officials are looking into 15 potential marijuana-related violations. Eight cases were carried over from last year, when commissioners adopted rules for medical marijuana, and seven have arisen since broader changes in the zoning and development ordinance took effect Jan. 1.

Caufield said in a memo that he sought guidance from commissioners about how code enforcement officers should treat violations of the new ordinance, which commissioners worked on for several months.

“What it means right now is that marijuana is simply another potential zoning violation, as would anything else,” he said.

But Chairman John Ludlow said that based on public comments so far, the commissioners want prompt action on potential marijuana-related violations — and consideration of greater penalties than imposed for other zoning violations.

“It’s my opinion — and this is the way it’s been since I arrived (in 2013) — that it’s so slow, it takes so long to get any definitive answers” to zoning violations generally, Ludlow said.

“I am drifting toward different enforcement procedures, priorities and perhaps even fines” for marijuana-related violations.

The 2014 measure that voters approved to legalize marijuana for recreational use sets a maximum of four plants per household and six plants for a medical-marijuana cardholder. Starting on March 1, caregivers also are limited in the number of plants they can grow — 12 within a city residential zone, 48 elsewhere.

Commercial growing must await licensing later this year from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Such operations are subject to the zoning ordinance, which bars some activities from specified zones.

Commissioner Tootie Smith said residents often call the sheriff, which enforces state law but not the county zoning code.

Caufield said that in some cases, landowners are following state requirements for marijuana cultivation but may have violations of the zoning and building codes. In other cases where there may be violations of state law, Caufield said they go hand in hand with zoning and building code violations.

“We need to be sure that it’s all legal,” Smith said.

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