While recreational cannabis has been legalized in the state of Oregon for many years, the county of Deschutes still has some reservations on what a regulated cannabis market may mean for its residents. Situated in central Oregon, Deschutes County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to leave the decision of recreational cannabis operations to the voters of the November 2020 election.
The decision at the Aug. 19 Deschutes County Board of Commissioners meeting immediately created a ban on new applicants who are looking to grow cannabis or operate as processing facilities until registered voters make a decision next fall. “Let’s back off and get clarity from the voters,” said Chair Commissioner Tony DeBone.
The meeting agenda outlined the ordinances that were being discussed. “Staff offers two ordinances concerning marijuana to the Board of County Commissioners. Ordinance No. 2019-014 addresses the prohibition (“Opt Out”) of future marijuana production and processing in Deschutes County until the next statewide general election; and Ordinance No. 2019-012 addresses the repeal of Ordinance No. 2018-012, marijuana production text amendments,” according to the meeting agenda.
The county’s next step will be to notify the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) of the county’s recent decision. Through the state’s Recreational Marijuana Program, the OLCC oversees the sale of cannabis and monitors cannabis cultivation and transportation.
“Let’s back off and get clarity from the voters.”
The unanimous move to hold off until the November 2020 ballot comes right after the Deschutes County Farm Bureau and representatives of the cannabis industry filed an appeal with the Land Use Board of Appeals. The appeal in question deemed a set of rules as unconstitutional for governing where cannabis production could take place in different parts of Deschutes County.
Just last October, the Deschutes County representatives amended the cannabis cultivation procedures. The changes created stricter regulations such as certain odor and noise limitations and outlawing cannabis cultivation in areas that were classified as “multiple use agricultural” zones.
With a population just under 200,000, some residents in the rural county have expressed worry over how cannabis growers and processors might disrupt daily life in the area. Concerns about light usage, noise and odor are all factors that the residents are considering. This public sentiment is what led commissioners to put a halt on all new applications until the 2020 vote.
However, the issue remains largely divided as there are still cannabis supporters and advocates in the county. The Oregon Farm Bureau as well as cannabis cultivators argue that because cannabis is classified as a farm crop, it should not be more regulated than other crops. Not to mention, because the county is mostly rural, the land would work well as cultivation sites. With the cannabis industry’s continual expansion, it’s no wonder that such locations have caught the eye of those in the business.
Patients who rely on cannabis for medical treatment need not worry. Medical cannabis and existing cannabis facilities are both exempt from the moratorium and any outcome from the vote next year. Yet the future of any growth for the cannabis industry rests in the hands of the Deschutes County voters.
Despite the temporary pause on applications in Deschutes, Oregon will not be in short supply for cannabis overall. Due to the state’s recent surplus, there is more than six years’ worth of cannabis product available on the market.