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Deschutes County lays out rural pot business rules


Deschutes County commissioners have given cannabis businesses in rural areas the green light.

The board recently lifted the opt-out moratorium that banned marijuana businesses in rural Deschutes. Beginning Sept. 1, Deschutes County will accept land use applications for recreational and medical production.

On Tuesday, the Community Development Department held two marijuana business workshops about the new pot regulations and what applicants will need to submit to grow or distribute outside city limits.

“The whole goal is not to treat the marijuana industry different than other businesses in rural Deschutes County,” said Community Development Director Nick Lelack.

“The county’s regulations are largely the same for medical and recreational, but they will also need to comply with the state regulations, which are different,” he added.

Along with applying to the proper state agency, marijuana business owners will also need local approval through a land use application.

The county rules were set in June to help ease neighbors’ concerns around the bright lights, odor and loud noises associated with pot farms.

“They are designed to protect the rural quality of life for our rural residents, to make sure that this business can succeed in an area where people live,” Lelack said.

Farmers will need to notify neighbors of their pot operation, but cannabis farmer Alex Risseeuw says that’s a threat to his safety.

“If I’m having to inform 70 plus people, I’m not aware of these people’s morals,” he said. “They could be criminals. So if by chance I inform a criminal, that definitely puts me and my family at risk.”

The initial land use application fee is $1,500, but if the application is contested by neighbors, it will go to a public hearing which would cost farmers another $5,000.

“Overall, it has been an extremely frustrating process. We have other farms in other counties that have been a lot easier when it comes to land use reviewing,” Risseeuw said.

Lelack argues the process marijuana farmers have to go through to become a business is the same any rural business would face.

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