BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners heard four hours of public opinion Monday, on whether to allow recreational marijuana grow operations in rural areas. People packed the hearing room for a chance to share their thoughts, and passionate pleas were heard on both sides of the issue.
Leila Carter, of Bend, told Commissioners many have a negative impression of those in the marijuana industry, but she says that hasn't been her experience. "The last time I checked, I couldn't pick my neighbors. Whether it's NorthWest Crossing or rural Deschutes County, I couldn't pick their profession or how many animals they had, or how many parties they chose to throw, what kind of car they drove, or the color of their skin; or, if they were going to be good and reasonable neighbors. The only control I have is myself."
Read more about a recent survey, paid for by the industry, showing support for allowing rural pot grows.
Kevin Hogan, co-owner of local cannabis company OreGrown, also asked the board to end the ban. "The very notion of a 'do over' vote silences the vote of your constituents, is anti American. They're counting on you to opt in, implement and let their voice be heard. Furthermore, by opting out, you're placing unwarranted stress on small business, the backbone of America. For the local cannabis industry, the short-term effects of the opt out are felt daily; and the long-term effects, and our worst-case scenario, will be disastrous. There will be layoffs in all cases."
But, many rural property owners, like Tumalo resident Carrie Deetin, spoke in favor of sending the issue back to voters. "The decision before you today, is momentous to the future of Bend. In some fashion, it will effect every man, woman and child who lives in this county. To date, many hours have been spent by dedicated citizens searching for a middle ground, to no avail. The disparity and discord is as strong and wide as ever. I respectfully request that you, the County Commissioners, put this decision back in the hands of the people of this county."
Read more about a grassroots effort to continue the "opt out."
And others, like Robert Pederson, talked about how grow operations could impact quality of life in rural parts of Deschutes County. "Why allow an industry here, with water, electricity, odor and unsightly plastic greenhouse issues? Stunning scenery and outdoor recreation have always been magnets for tourists and residents, alike. Why spoil that lifestyle and undermine the investment of property owners? Those threats will increase dramatically with more than one license per parcel."
County Commissioners expect to begin deliberating Wednesday. They'll decide whether to continue the temporary ban on rural grow operations and send the issue to voters in November, or opt in and impose regulations on the industry.