BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners officially lifted the ban on marijuana-related businesses in rural areas, Monday. Prior to their vote, County Community Development Director Nick Lelack explained the types of businesses impacted by the new ordinance: "Addressing marijuana processing sites, medical marijuana dispensaries, marijuana producers, marijuana possessors, marijuana wholesalers and marijuana retailers. And, this would rescind ordinance 2015-009."
After thanking staff for months of work, public hearings and meetings, Commissioners voted unanimously to reverse the previous “opt out” and declare an emergency -- which means new rules take effect in 30 days. Commissioner Alan Unger recognizes the decision isn’t going to please everyone. "I feel that Deschutes County is ready to address the problems, and bring what in the past has created problems into compliance, and to look as we move forward to create an atmosphere where we are protecting our rural life but are still allowing for opportunity. I think we have a good set of regulations and now the challenge is how do we put those into effect." Commissioner Tammy Baney agreed, "I’ve often said that I think this is probably something very similar to what my grandmother experienced through prohibition. We won’t be able to take care of the black market through these regulations; we won’t be able to solve all the issues. But, the fact remains that we are living with a new industry, and that industry has been allowed. I think we’ve done a great job in seeking balance to try and bring two sides together."
Commissioner Tony DeBone says there is still more work to do. "What does enforcement look like, I think is really our next step, also. Let’s work together with the industry, let’s make sure people are thriving in a regulated legal industry. But, also we have some controls and some enforcement around what’s allowed, neighborhood livability, neighbor relationships, enforcement by our public safety officers. So, there are a lot of pieces that still need to be implemented, also."
The county will begin accepting license applications for marijuana businesses wanting to operate outside of incorporated cities, beginning September first.