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Urban Oregon legalized marijuana, rural Oregon pays the price

Published Aug. 9, 2016 -

COURTESY PHOTO - Shirley MorganAs the founder of the Citizens for Public Safety, Quality of Life and Property Values — a national volunteer outreach group with a focus on the impacts of marijuana in our communities — I want to convey that the recent decision by Oregon’s Legislature to redefine marijuana as an agricultural crop through HB3400 should not be ignored.

First, by the Legislature redefining marijuana as an agricultural crop, just like a tomato, it has opened the door to large out-of-state commercial marijuana investors who are buying up land just to grow, process, wholesale and retail commercial recreational marijuana.

The Legislature, however, gave local counties and cities the right to opt out of having these federally illegal commercial marijuana enterprises. If a county or city voted with a 55 percent or greater approval margin in the November 2014 election, then the local jurisdiction had the authority to simply opt out. If the margin was below 55 percent, the local jurisdictions could send a referral to the voters in November 2016 and let the voters decide whether they want commercial marijuana production, processing, wholesaling or retail sites in their communities.

More than 100 cities and 19 counties in Oregon banned commercial marijuana. This November the citizens of Sandy will have the opportunity to re-vote on whether they want to see large commercial marijuana enterprises taking over their communities.

Second, in December 2015, Clackamas County Commissioners opened the door for these recreational commercial businesses in the unincorporated areas. To date Clackamas County has more than 177 commercial recreational marijuana land-use applications that have been applied for with 35 percent of those being for marijuana production sites in the Boring and Sandy unincorporated rural areas.

Rural Oregon farming residents are seeing large out-of-state land grabs for the sole purpose of growing commercial recreational marijuana.

Imagine, one day you have a horse pasture next to your home and the next day this 40-acre pasture has been turned into a compound surrounded by a tall fence with 10 rows of barbed wire on the top. The fence blocks your once beautiful view, but the grow operation emits the skunky smell of pot. A lighted greenhouse overpowers the night sky, and increased traffic entirely changes the rural farming character and culture that you have enjoyed.

Finally, while it was the urban voters who voted yes for the marijuana tax-and-regulate scheme — believing it was for an individual’s right if 21 and over to buy marijuana from a retail shop or grow their own four plants — it was the rural voters who voted against legalization. It’s these people who are being most negatively impacted by these large, commercial marijuana production sites setting up next to their homes.

Although many innocent voters have been misled by out-of-state, highly funded ballot initiatives that pushed the tax-and-regulate marijuana scheme, many citizens have observed the impacts firsthand and are standing up to bring a strong awareness to these deceptive attempts to try and ignore the impacts to public safety, quality of life, reduced property values, drugged driving, environmental destruction, public consumption and intoxication, armed robberies, fatal shootings, odors, increased traffic, fires and hash oil explosions, which all lead to the degradation of our communities.

Shirley Morgan lives in Welches. She is a graduate of Marylhurst University in West Linn (1999), with a master’s degree in Whole System Design/Organizational System Renewal from Antioch University in Seattle (2003). She holds another master’s degree in community and economic development from Southern New Hampshire University-Manchester (2008) and an associate’s degree of church leadership from Portland Bible College (2015).