BEND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon county is considering stricter marijuana rules that could reduce the amount of county land available for cultivation by more than 75 percent and expand buffer zones between pot grows and schools, national monuments and public land.
Deschutes County commissioners held a hearing Tuesday to get feedback on proposals that would change everything from marijuana production to retail in the rural parts of the Central Oregon county, The Bulletin reported Wednesday.
Residents in rural areas such as Tumalo and Alfalfa largely support the proposed changes because they feel the marijuana industry has drastically changed their community. Marijuana businesses, however, opposed the rules and say they were not adequately represented in the decision-making process.
“It’s so challenging to feel like you don’t have a voice,” Lindsey Pate, cofounder of the Deschutes County cannabis operation Glass House Grown, told the newspaper.
The county finalized its first round of rules on cannabis production in the fall of 2016, creating a regulatory framework in which growers are required to meet a series of restrictions before receiving county approval.
The commission always intended to revisit those rules to gauge how well they were working, and began exploring ways to fine-tune the regulations last fall.
The proposed rules would prohibit marijuana production and processing in parcels of the county’s multiuse agriculture zone, where lots tend to be smaller than those zoned exclusively for farm-use but larger than those zoned for rural residences.
They would also expand the required buffer between marijuana growing operations and schools, national monuments and public land from 1,000 feet to a half-mile and increase the number of places where a buffer would be required.
If approved as they are now, those changes would reduce the amount of land in the county available for marijuana production from nearly 209,000 acres to fewer than 50,000 acres, a reduction of more than 75 percent, Tanya Saltzman, associate planner for Deschutes County, said during the hearing.
The number of available tax lots would drop to 1,218, down from 5,402 under the current rules.
Applicants hoping to grow marijuana would also be required to provide a report on an odor-control system — submitted by an engineer — demonstrating the effectiveness of the system and would require the odor control method to be independently tested.
The rules also provided more restrictions on water use, requiring additional documentation about where water for a proposed grow is coming from. Local rules prohibit outdoor marijuana grows.
“The basic problem that farmers in Deschutes County have with this whole concept is that you’re wasting our precious farmland on something that doesn’t use the soil,” said Liz Dickson, a land use lawyer who has focused on cannabis over the last year and a half.
Still, members of the cannabis industry felt the restrictions punish legal recreational growers for sins committed by black market and medical growers.
“I think cracking down on the good actors is actually part of the problem, not part of the solution,” said Jennifer Clifton, founder of Bend-based Clifton Cannabis Law.