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Action timed with state applications for retail sales



Clackamas County commissioners have settled on details of how the county will regulate commercial production and retail sales of marijuana for recreational use.

They have scheduled action on the formal ordinance for Dec. 17, but they approved its details on a 4-1 vote Wednesday (Dec. 2) after a five-hour work session.

The action is timed ahead of Jan. 4, when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission can start accepting applications for retail outlets to sell marijuana for recreational use. State licenses are likely to be issued later in 2016. (Medical-marijuana dispensaries can sell limited amounts for recreational use.)

The action amends the county zoning and development ordinance, which will set standards for cultivation, processing and sales of marijuana outside city limits. The county regulations do not apply within cities.

“The reason I want this is to settle it, hopefully once and for all, and go forward with some really tight regulations — tighter than I believe anybody has done in this state,” says board Chairman John Ludlow.

The regulations do not affect provisions in the ballot measure that Oregon voters approved in 2014 allowing cultivation for personal use. For households, there is a general limit of four plants, screened from public view.

The regulations bar commercial cultivation in all urban residential and many rural residential zones. But it would be allowed in five- and 10-acre rural zones that allow farm and forest uses.

For indoor cultivation in other zones, the proposed ordinance would impose controls on access, lighting, noise, odors, setbacks, waste storage and water. Processing of marijuana concentrates and extracts, which involve use of flammable solvents, would be limited to buildings in industrial zones.

The commissioners voted for minimum distances of 2,000 feet from schools — double the 1,000-foot minimum in state law — and 1,500 feet from parks and other public facilities, and 500 feet from day-care centers and preschools.

The regulations affecting marijuana for recreational use will take effect Jan. 4. Changes to regulations that commissioners adopted earlier this year for medical-marijuana operations will take effect March 1.

Oregon lawmakers earlier this year allowed cities and counties some authority over placement of facilities related to recreational use of marijuana, but not for medical use.

“We have been dealt this hand and we played it as well as we could to this point,” says Commissioner Tootie Smith.

According to an Aug. 26 report by the Oregon Health Authority, which regulates medical marijuana, Clackamas County has 10 of Oregon’s 345 licensed dispensaries.

About 400 people showed up at an earlier hearing of the Clackamas County Planning Commission, where 70 people testified. When the county commissioners conducted a formal hearing of their own on Nov. 23, 40 people testified.

Wednesday’s proceedings were closed to further public testimony.

A dissenter

The lone dissenter on the Dec. 2 vote was Commissioner Paul Savas, who twice moved unsuccessfully during the meeting to have Clackamas County join a number of counties and cities that seek to ban facilities related to marijuana.

According to a Nov. 24 report posted by OLCC, 13 of the 36 counties and 46 of the 242 cities have adopted such bans or will seek voter approval of them in the 2016 general election. They cannot tax marijuana themselves or share in state proceeds from sales and taxes.

While none of the Portland metro counties is included, among the cities on the opt-out list are Damascus, Gladstone, Oregon City, Sandy and Fairview.

Savas said he supported an opt-out as a way to buy time for continued work on the ordinance and clarification of state rules by the OLCC and the Oregon Health Authority.

He says he still is doubtful about whether the money that the county will receive from retail sales and land-use permit fees will cover costs of public safety and zoning code enforcement.

“I know we take a lot of pride in what we did here,” Savas says. “But if we don’t have the staff or the dollars to do that, then it’s a futile exercise. I think we have to our due diligence when it comes to costs.”

Commissioner Martha Schrader joined Savas on the losing side on the opt-out votes, but she voted with the majority of the board in approving the draft ordinance.

“It certainly is not going to solve the whole problem,” she says. “But I think the Association of Oregon Counties is wise to advise all 36 counties not to ignore this, but to pull something together.”

Despite the board’s votes against an opt-out election, voters can still petition to put the issue to a countywide election in November 2016. Their deadline for submitting the required signatures will be in several months.

Clackamas County voters, by 52 percent to 48 percent, sided with the majority of Oregon voters who approved recreational use of marijuana under Measure 91 in 2014. The county vote in favor was less than the statewide approval of 54 percent.

“I think the voters made that decision and we need to stand behind it,” says Commissioner Jim Bernard. “We don’t seem to satisfy Mr. Savas’ concerns about this … but we made an effort to get close.”

A heated exchange

The five-hour work session closed with an acrimonious exchange between Smith and Savas.

Smith spoke up after Savas moved for a second time to have Clackamas County opt out of recreational marijuana, although Savas allowed for the possibility of the county halting that process before November 2016.

“I am so sick and tired of these statements that you constantly make,” said Smith, who is seeking re-election. “Paul, I think you are irresponsible when you make statements like that.”

Chairman Ludlow attempted to cut off Smith, who responded: “I can say what I want, Mr. Chairman, so just sit quietly.”

Ludlow said he had the authority to rule her out of order, but added: “Just go ahead and wrap it up. You can beat up each other, but do it privately.”

“No, I want to go on the record with it,” Smith said.

Savas, who is challenging Ludlow’s bid for a second term as board chairman, said he was doing what he perceived to be in the county’s best interests.

“I am saying that somewhere in this county, there ought to be someplace people can live and not have to endure this (marijuana cultivation),” he said.

Schrader said the tensions stem not from the views individual commissioners, but from the differing perspective of the county’s urban and rural residents about the consequences of marijuana cultivation.

“We will figure it out,” said Schrader, who also is up for re-election. “We always do.”

A link to the official release by Clackamas County:

www.clackamas.us/pressreleases/pr20151202a.html

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