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Officials consider land-use changes to coincide with applications for state licensing.



TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Clackamas County officials are wrestling with rules for recreational marijuana sales outlets.Clackamas County commissioners have heard differing views about how or whether to regulate marijuana facilities for medical and recreational use.

One group says the draft regulations released by county planning officials on Sept. 21 are too restrictive. Among the objections are 100-foot setbacks proposed for rural residential lots of 5 and 10 acres, and a ban on cultivation within rural and urban industrial zones.

“You are going to put a lot of smaller farmers out of business if you pursue the draft regulations,” said Scott Phillips, a Portland lawyer who spoke for growers near Boring.

Another group says that commissioners should invoke an option under state law allowing voters in the November 2016 election to decide whether there should be any such facilities, other than those for cultivation of the plant for medical purposes.

“Landowners who did not want this federally illegal drug in the first place now have to deal with it in their own backyards,” said Jean Roberts, who lives outside Sandy.

About 30 people made their feelings known during a 90-minute discussion that the commissioners conducted last week to gauge public sentiment.

Although several people spoke about specifics last week, the draft regulations — which would apply only outside city boundaries — will be considered at formal public hearings of the county planning commission and board of commissioners. The first such hearing is scheduled Oct. 26.

County Commissioner Tootie Smith said she is not wedded to what is proposed in the draft regulations, which are in the form of amendments to the county zoning and development ordinance.

“It’s like throwing spaghetti against a wall and seeing what sticks,” Smith said.

Smith said if marijuana cultivators and processors want to operate in rural areas, “then be sensitive to your neighbors.” But she added, “From the research I’ve done, these folks know what they are doing.”

If the board of commissioners adopts the regulations later this year, they will be timed to coincide with the Jan. 4 deadline for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to start accepting license applications for production, processing, wholesale and retail sales of marijuana for adult use. OLCC is expected to issue the first such licenses later in 2016.

Lawmakers this year empowered counties and cities to set “reasonable regulations” for such facilities. Among those standards are locations, setbacks, security, noise, odor, building size and traffic.

County control

Clackamas County’s draft regulations are aligned with the ordinance commissioners adopted in April to govern medical-marijuana dispensaries, which are licensed by the Oregon Health Authority.

According to an Aug. 26 report by the agency, Clackamas County has 10 of Oregon’s 345 state-licensed dispensaries, compared with 13 in Washington County and 147 in Multnomah County, virtually all of those within the Portland city limits.

Commissioners’ Chairman John Ludlow said he has heard relatively few complaints about the operations of local dispensaries.

As for the possibility of recreational-marijuana facilities, Ludlow added, “We are going to have two counties around us that will have a lot looser rules.”

Planning Director Mike McCallister said the draft regulations were the best option for the county, which also could do nothing.

“Taking no action is doing something,” said McCallister, who noted that the county’s fallback would be the requirements in the current medical-marijuana ordinance.

While he said he sympathized with rural neighbors who oppose such facilities, said Ed Mura of Colton, “voters voted for it and that’s fine. But I want things (standards) taken care of” through a revised ordinance.

Opt-out election?

But a number of rural residents urged the commissioners to invoke another option, which would allow voters to decide whether any of the other marijuana-related facilities should get county land-use approvals.

They got a sympathetic ear from Commissioner Paul Savas, who said, “The rural part of the county will feel a bigger impact.”

Savas said, however, that an opt-out election also would allow more time to continue work on land-use regulations.

Under the opt-out choice allowed under state law, cities and counties would put to voters in the November 2016 election whether to ban up to four types of facilities related to marijuana for adult use, and two types related to medical marijuana.

According to a Sept. 5 report by OLCC, six counties and 16 cities so far — including Sandy — have filed notice for an opt-out election. They cannot tax marijuana or share in state proceeds from retail sales.

Last year, Clackamas County voters split 52.1 percent in favor of legalization under Measure 91 and 47.9 percent against it.

Neither the draft regulations nor a potential opt-out election will affect other provisions of Oregon’s 2014 ballot measure that legalizes use of marijuana by people 21 and older. Under the law that took effect July 1, adults can raise four plants per household, possess eight ounces within their residence and one ounce in public.

Smoking in public places, including vehicles, is still barred.

Sue Thoens, who lives outside Oregon City, was the first to speak during the discussion.

“I just want to bring a face to this business,” said Thoens, whose late husband began it. “It is a farming business.”

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