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Confiscated pot stinking up Oregon courthouse

COQUILLE, Ore. — The atmosphere at the Coos County Courthouse this spring is a bit heady. Blame it on the pot in the evidence lockers and too little ventilation.

The coastal county had to shut down its aging garbage burner in March, so marijuana confiscated in drug cases has stacked up in the sheriff’s evidence lockers.

On warm days, the aroma wafts through the building. That’s led to complaints and a buzz of comment in the three-story courthouse.

“I didn’t know I could come into the courthouse and get a contact high,” County Commissioner Cam Parry joked in an interview with The World of Coos Bay.

Recently, the sheriff’s office got rid of most of a 10-pound stockpile by combining it with a forester’s waste burn. But the county still lacks a regular way to dispose of the marijuana evidence.

Pot is harder to store than other evidence such as prescription drugs or methamphetamine, said Detective Sergeant Dan Looney.

“Marijuana takes up a lot of room and, because it’s so strong-smelling, it’s hard to store it anywhere without getting complaints,” he said.

What to do about the pot is only part of the county’s waste problem.

Since it opened, the incinerator has set Coos County apart from most American counties, which use landfills.

The incinerator took care of 20,000 tons a year of the county’s waste. But this spring a consulting engineer judged the incinerator so decrepit it could fail catastrophically, killing employees.

The county is trucking garbage to landfills while the commissioners consider the future of county waste disposal. But certain waste streams — such as confiscated drugs and animal carcasses — can’t go to a dump.

If commissioners decide to set up a transfer station to move waste to a regional landfill, the county could buy a small incinerator, costing less than $1 million, for items such as drug evidence.

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