DESCHUTES COUNTY -- Deschutes County Commissioners want voters to have a say regarding future recreational marijuana grows. During a public hearing Wednesday, the Board reviewed information that's been gathered in the last month, asking them to opt out, when it comes to marijuana.
Board Chair, Commissioner Phil Henderson, says they were planning to do their one-year review on regulations, but decided changing the rules wasn't going to fix the issue. "In the last two years, we've had a lot of challenges by people saying they want to get rid of the ability for the county to regulate marijuana at all, and by the same token, there's a lot unhappiness out there in the County with people who are faced with living next door."
Henderson says marijuana is a complicated issue because it's illegal on the federal level, legal on the state, and only half the major cities in Deschutes County allow its recreational sale inside their limits. But, he says the Commissioners unanimously agree - it's time the voters weighed in, as they're the most affected by the industry. "It'll be on the ballot, so you're going to have, for the first time, a vote by the residents of Deschutes County as to whether or not they want to allow marijuana grows throughout the County."
He says it's been an interesting 2 years in Deschutes County, as they try to make the new industry work for everyone. Many County residents attended Wednesday's meeting, and Henderson says marijuana has been a hot-button issue for the community ever since it was first legalized and the County decided to give it a go. "3 Commissioners in 2016 opted in, with all these regulations, and now, 3 commissioners are opting out, giving the vote to the residents of the County to decide themselves what they want to do. A kind of interesting twist."
Henderson says the official vote to opt out won't take place until August 19th, and it's likely the Commissioners will choose to invoke the emergency clause, meaning no applications accepted more than 30 days later, will be approved. Not many applications have come in to the County in recent months, as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational pot grows, has delayed their application approval process. Henderson says 20 applications approved by the County have yet to make it through the OLCC.