Deschutes planning panel finalizes pot recommendations

The Deschutes County Planning Commission has finalized its recommendations for regulating marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas.

The planning commission met Monday night for about five hours and the volunteer board unanimously supported proposed zoning regulations and setbacks as well as outdoor lighting and odor control.

The recommended county rules will undergo a second public hearing process by the Deschutes County Commission at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 2.

The proposed rules have been in flux until now, however, county commissioners may choose to make additional changes before final adoption.

The regulations, once adopted by county commissioners, will apply to recreational and medical marijuana businesses, including retail shops, growers, wholesalers and processing.

Monday’s meeting was attended by dozens of marijuana business owners and supporters who submitted a petition to the planning commission calling for continued support of “licensed and well-regulated cannabis farming and other businesses.”

The planning commission did not support allowing marijuana growing outside of the exclusive farm use zone, except on property in rural industrial zones. It recommended growers on farmland be allowed to produce marijuana outright, but be required to have at least 20 acres for the operation.

Earlier drafts of the regulations suggested allowing marijuana growing in the rural residential zone and other zones with a conditional use permit.

Hunter Neubauer, co-owner of Oregrown Industries in Bend, said he would like other zones such as rural residential to be allowed for pot production with a county permit.

“I think the original draft was really well-written and encompassed everything,” he said, on Tuesday. “It was fair for the community and the industry.”

The recommended regulations include requiring growers to shield or screen lights inside buildings such as greenhouses between sunset and sunrise. Outdoor lighting would be prohibited during nighttime hours.

The planning commission also recommended that potential odor from production be limited with the use of a filtration system with one or more fans.

Licensing by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for recreational marijuana businesses won’t be available until next year. Medical marijuana growing and processing have been legal in Oregon since 1998.

Neighbors of some current growers have complained about odor and lighting in rural areas around Deschutes County.

Ed Kruskamp, who lives next to a grower in the Tumalo area, said he and others in similar situations are highly concerned about lighting and odor.

“The biggest concern is what will happen with regulation and enforcement?” Kruskamp said. “All we want is effective regulation and enforcement.”

Kruskamp said he worries growers who have already started operating and growing medical marijuana will be allowed to circumvent regulations that are being applied retroactively.

Matt Martin, an associate planner with Deschutes County, said Tuesday that existing businesses licensed through the medical marijuana program would have to update to whatever standards are adopted.

But current marijuana growing and processing would not have to adhere to the recommended setbacks planning commissioners suggested and will be grandfathered in, he said, since it would require moving buildings potentially and be unreasonable.

Neubauer said he hopes the county will continue to consider forming an advisory committee or task force to address potential conflicts. The group could meet to continue discussing and evaluating the adopted regulations.

“I think it would make sense for us to get the city, county, involved community members and people involved in the industry together to go over what the issues are and discuss them,” Neubauer said.