Crook County Bans Marijuana Businesses in Unincorporated Areas Deschutes County Continues Discussions

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Marijuana bans are heating up in Central Oregon. On Wednesday August 19th Crook County Commissioners voted unanimously not to allow marijuana-related businesses within unincorporated areas. By David Clewett CBN Feature Writer

Per House Bill 3400 the ban excludes medical marijuana processing sites and dispensaries, recreational marijuana producers and processors and recreational wholesalers and retailers. There is currently one medical marijuana dispensary open within Prineville city limits which will not be impacted.

Crook County voted 59 percent against measure 91 in November which allowed the County Court to consider and ultimately implement this ban on commercial operations. The decision is intended to keep the community safe and is a strong reflection of the voice of the voters.

The ordinance bans all marijuana related businesses in unincorporated areas of the county. Retail and medical shops are prohibited in Crook County’s unincorporated areas in addition to grow operations and manufacturing businesses. There is no ban on medical dispensaries within city limits. The decision also has no effect on personal use and grow rights which were legalized with the approval of Measure 91. An emergency provision went into effect which immediately enacted the ban.

The House Bill 3400 bans are gaining momentum as Crook County is the fifth in the state and the first in Central Oregon to ban marijuana related businesses in unincorporated areas. HB 3400 allows the fifteen counties in Oregon that voted against Measure 91 by at least 55 percent to consider such bans.

The debate does not end here, however. The county can reverse their ban at any time so during the moratorium period Crook County will continue hearing opinions. They plan to talk with other counties that have allowed marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas to learn from their experiences. This decision allows the county to wait for the State and OLCC to refine laws while also observing how other counties handle their decisions and the new industry.

Crook County Commissioner Seth Crawford said that Wednesday’s decision to opt out of marijuana-related businesses in the unincorporated areas of Crook County should be viewed as an opportunity to sit back and watch the issue play out elsewhere in the state with a plan to revisit the topic next year.

“Personally, to me an issue like this you don’t want to move too quickly. We are hearing from other counties including Deschutes County and they are already having big issues,” Crawford said.

Crawford said that the criteria he valued most in this decision was “how it would affect the citizens of Crook Countyand what it is doing to the community. The most important thing is to protect the safety of children and citizens of the county. That is my number one priority.” He added that this decision largely supports the voice of Crook County voter’s on Measure 91 saying that the “people of Crook County made a clear statement.”

Commissioner Ken Fahlgren has a slightly different perspective on reevaluating the ordinance.

“Although the Ordinance is subject to future amendment or repeal by the County Court, the Ordinance became effective upon signing and unless there is some future action by the County Court will remain in effect. To my knowledge, there is presently no intent to revisit the Ordinance or revise it based on what other local jurisdictions might do,” Fahlgren said.

According to Fahlgren, marijuana businesses will not be permitted outside of city limits unless there is a change in the adopted ordinance and a change in the current zoning maps.

Commissioner Fahlgren said three main criteria were considered in this decision. The first was that Crook County supports local control of marijuana regulation.

“Based on the Circuit Court decision in the Cave Junction case (affirming local control) and the opt out provisions contained in HB 3400, the desire to exercise local control was a significant factor in the County’s decision,” he said.

The 60 percent of County voters against Measure 91 was another factor and the third was Crook County’s previously adopted Ordinance prohibiting Medical Marijuana dispensaries which “made this decision (to opt out) important to maintain consistency in local decisions regarding marijuana.”

Fahlgren also noted that “County zoning regulations only allow such businesses within Commercial Zones. The only two commercial zones outside the city are located in Post and Paulina. Neither of those locations would permit the use due to the proximity of the Paulina School and the USPS outlet in Post.”

In making this decision CountyCommissioners also considered the economic impacts. “We need to do anything we can to improve the economy of Crook County. If marijuana business is a viable part of Crook County then it isn’t going away. We aren’t excluding them we are just waiting for best practice,” Crawford said.

Following the Crook County decision all eyes now turn to Deschutes County as they prepare to make a decision.

The Deschutes County Board of Commissioners met on August 12th for public hearings to gather information from the community to make a well-informed decision with careful consideration of public opinion. On the Monday following the hearing the Board met to discuss the issue amongst themselves. The Deschutes County Board will meet again on September 2 to discuss a path forward at its 1:30pm work session.

No timeline has been set for a decision by the Deschutes Board. However, they have indicated a desire to start the process early as Legislature allowed cities and counties only 180 days from June 30 to utilize HB 3400 and opt for a moratorium period for unincorporated areas.

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About Author

David Clewett CBN Feature Writer

David Clewett is a writer and fly fisherman based in Sunriver, Oregon. He is a freelance journalist and poet with his most recent book being publish in late 2016 and two more collections of poetry expected to publish by the end of 2017. He enjoys hiking into and fishing the nearby lakes and streams of the Cascades and draws most of his inspiration from the clean mountain air and wildlife.

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