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Recreational marijuana sales coming soon

Planning commission considers zoning restrictions.
Richard Hanners

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on July 24, 2018 5:09PM

From left, Cindy Olson and daughter Haley Olson pose in front of Rocky Mountain Dispensary July 20.

The Eagle/Richard Hanners

From left, Cindy Olson and daughter Haley Olson pose in front of Rocky Mountain Dispensary July 20.

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The sign at Rocky Mountain Dispensary will change once the store begins selling recreational marijuana planned by the end of July.

The Eagle/Richard Hanners

The sign at Rocky Mountain Dispensary will change once the store begins selling recreational marijuana planned by the end of July.

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Recreational marijuana sales in Grant County could be happening by the end of July, according to Haley Olson, the store manager at the Rocky Mountain Dispensary in John Day.

“The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has completed their inspection and everything went smooth,” she said. “We passed with flying colors.”

The business already has a land-use compatibility statement from the county approving the location of the business, but the store is undergoing some remodeling, Olson said.

Same store, same location

Rocky Mountain Dispensary has been selling medical marijuana just outside the John Day city limits in the city’s urban growth boundary since June 1, 2017. All cities in Grant County ban the sale of medical or recreational marijuana inside their city limits, including John Day.

Olson, whose family owns the local business, led the effort to overturn a ban on sales of recreational marijuana, succeeding on a second ballot measure this May. Fifty-three percent of Grant County voters supported overturning the ban.

Rocky Mountain Dispensary will continue to sell medical marijuana in the same building alongside recreational marijuana, Olson said. The store’s name will remain the same, but some changes will take place as the business shifts from regulations under the Oregon Health Authority to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Nobody under 21 will be allowed in the store, she said. People with a medical marijuana card who are over 18 will have to rely on a caregiver to purchase their medical marijuana, she said. This could a create a hardship, she said, but she didn’t know of any customers at the John Day store who were under 21.

Rocky Mountain Dispensary managed to get state approval despite a tremendous backlog of OLCC applications. On May 30, the agency announced it would set aside marijuana business license applications received after June 15 so the commission’s 13 employees could catch up with 1,423 applications.

But the agency received 1,001 more applications following the announcement, increasing the backlog to about 2,295 applications. Ninety-two applications were approved following the announcement, bringing the statewide total of active marijuana business licenses to 1,964.

Olson’s family already grows medical marijuana in Grant County using hydroponics, and they plan to eventually grow recreational marijuana, Olson said.

“We’re waiting to see what happens with Grant County zoning,” she said.

County zoning

The Grant County Planning Commission met July 19 to review a proposed amendment to the county’s land development code that would address time, place and manner regulations related to all marijuana businesses, from growers and processors to wholesale and retail sellers of both medical and recreational marijuana.

Grant County planning director Hilary McNary told the Eagle marijuana growing is considered an agricultural use and not currently subject to a land use permit, but growers must obtain a land-use compatibility statement from the county office.

“We have signed one land-use compatibility statement for production of marijuana in a farm zone,” she said.

McNary told the county planning commission that OLCC has lengthy, detailed and extensive regulations for marijuana businesses, but they didn’t address three land-use issues that she learned about from talking to planners in other counties – odor, noise and light pollution.

She noted that the state agriculture department regards marijuana growing as just another crop, and without the county imposing regulations on odor, noise and light pollution, “it would be a free for all.”

Olson told the commission she supports the proposed county regulations because they could prevent a very large marijuana-growing business from coming to Grant County and setting up operations in the West Bench or Marysville areas.

According to the proposed amendment, the draft standards do not apply to homegrown or homemade marijuana as allowed under state law, to individuals who are registered medical marijuana cardholders or to designated caregivers at their primary residence who are providing services to a single registered medical marijuana cardholder. The regulations also do not apply to recreational use or possession of marijuana as allowed under state law.

Primary owners or operators of marijuana businesses will be required to obtain a $120 annual permit issued by the county planning department. Marijuana businesses will be required to have a license or certificate from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission or the Oregon Health Authority and hold a land-use permit from the county.

Explosive issue

Under the amendment, marijuana businesses of all types will be prohibited from all residentially zoned districts and the county’s rural service center district.

Marijuana growing will be allowed outright as a farm use in primary forest and agriculturally zoned districts and be allowed under a Type II review in the county’s general industrial or general commercial districts. Marijuana production is prohibited as a home occupation in any zoning district.

Marijuana processing businesses will be allowed as a conditional use in agriculturally zoned, industrial and commercial districts. But the risk of explosion from use of butane or other gases in the processing of marijuana into oils, as explained by Olson, led to lengthy discussion by the commission.

Commission member Steve Parsons, an electrical contractor, expressed concern that the proposed amendment did not specify that the design and construction of marijuana processing facilities using explosive gases be signed off by the appropriate officials.

Because of the technical nature of Parson’s concerns, McNary was directed to look into the matter and bring the amendment back at the planning commission’s Aug. 23 meeting.


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