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Awaiting state regs, board opts for medical-pot model

Legal marijuana use likely permitted in eight county districts


Awaiting state guidance on the potential upcoming wave of recreational marijuana shops, Washington County is moving cautiously, with its template for regulation resting on its current, bare-bones medical dispensary model.

Since May, the county’s Department of Land Use and Transportation has presented the Board of Commissioners with three options for consideration. One would table any regulation, with no county ordinance proposed until after the state issues its own rules in January 2016 — a plan that would involve a fair bit of scrambling by the board to issue interpretations for early recreational-sales applicants at that time.

The second option applies the “existing Time/Manner/Place regulations” that govern medical dispensaries and recreational sales, according to the department’s planning document. This would mean that such soon-to-be-legal recreational activities as growing and processing pot would be permitted in the eight land-use districts currently open to medical dispensaries.

They include “certain commercial districts and transit-oriented districts,” according to the document.

For example, said Stephen Shane, a county senior planner, retail stores under this model could be sited near MAX stations and certain frequently-traveled bus routes. They’d also be permitted along portions of TV Highway and Highway 99W.

The second option, according to the planning document, gives a general framework for consideration while awaiting state action. For instance, the current medical dispensary rules require a 1,000-foot buffer between any facility and a school and a 2,000-foot buffer between any two dispensaries. Operating hours are limited to between 8 a.m and 10 p.m., and entrances and off-street parking areas have to be well-lit and clearly visible.

The department noted that this option permits “growing and processing activities in commercial and transit-based districts” and perhaps even wholesale operations there as well.

A third option, piggybacking on the second or medical-dispensary model, would seek to fine-tune regulations governing growing, processing and wholesaling marijuana. Under this option, growing and processing would be limited to facilities in the “Industrial District within the [Urban Growth Boundary] and Rural Industrial District outside the UGB.” Wholesalers would be allowed there and in the General Commercial District.

Commissioners decided at their June 16 work session to adopt the second option as their current working model. According to Shane, an ordinance to that effect is expected to be filed in July. The department is still working out the details for the subsequent hearing dates. Despite the current interest in the matter and a flurry of media attention focused on the July 1 legalization of possession of pot for personal use, Shane said the department has received no public comment to date.

The owner of a Beaverton medical dispensary, Growing Releaf, did talk to the News-Times. He declined to give his name, but said if allowed, “I’ll certainly seek to sell recreational. I worry about only medical dispensaries staying in business.”

He added, “I thought I’d have five years to a be a mom-and-pop store. I worry now that I’ll be gone within a year or not able to compete.”

He said he gets one or two calls a week from potential investors, “but I don’t want to sell out. I want to be the oddball.”

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