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Interest high in High Desert pot shops – but…


Monday was a big day for medical marijuana dispensaries like High Grade Organics in Bend.

“The application is very thorough, very lengthy,” Nick Harsell, owner of High Grade Organics, said Tuesday. “There is a lot of documentation that has to be done.”

Harsell applied for a medical marijuana dispensary license on Monday’s first day of registration, and he was not alone.

A total of 289 dispensaries in Oregon applied for licenses. 17 in Deschutes County, as well as one in Jefferson County.

For many dispensaries, their dream of becoming legal could end just there.

Deschutes County, for example, is proposing an ordinance to ban dispensaries outside of incorporated cities, where county land-use regulations rule.

“Our greatest concern would be that we have applications come in,that drives land use, that drives what the uses would be, and it isn’t really an open conversation with the public,” said county Commissioner Tammy Baney.

The ordinance would not allow the use of any building, structure or location for marijuana business. A public hearing has been scheduled for Monday, March 17, at 10 a.m. at the Deschutes Services Center in Bend.

“It is an opportunity for the community in our rural parts to determine what it is that they want to see,” Baney said.

For now, Harsell can breathe easy. Bend doesn’t fall under the county’s jurisdiction, and the city of Bend isn’t currently planning on banning dispensaries.

Meanwhile, Oregon lawmakers are still wrestling over whether to let local governments ban or strictly regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

The legal back and forth is stressful for Harsell and those who support medical marijuana.

“It is a concern, because it is restricting access for patients that would have to travel the distance,” Harsell said.

Whether or not the county ordinance will hold up depends on action in Salem. Senate Bill 1531 would allow counties and cities to regulate and ban medical marijuana. On Tuesday, the House delayed the pot dispensary bill a third time, but a House panel later approved a compromise measure that would allow local governments to ban the dispensaries — but only until lawmakers revisit the issue in their regular session next year.

Senate Republicans remain in opposition and want local communities to be able to ban the businesses, including a Central Oregon Republican.

“I think it’s important for communities to be able to ban them if they want to ban them and not have them in their communities,” said state Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend.

Medical marijuana dispensary owners like Harsell believe instead of banning shops, cities and counties should work on laws to keep medical marijuana safe.

“They shouldn’t say yes to everything, but they shouldn’t say no to everything,” he said. “They should be picky. They should meet the owner or meet the person that is applying for the application.”

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