Rural Oregon Counties Wrestle With Marijuana Restrictions

Rural counties in Oregon are taking advantage of a state law that allows them to limit or ban the production or sale of marijuana there.

Under House Bill 3400, Oregon counties that voted against Measure 91 (Oregon’s recreational bill) with a majority of at least 55% have the option of banning medical marijuana dispensaries, commercial grow ops and any future recreational stores.

According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Oregon League of Cities, 11 cities and four counties have moved to implement limits and bans on the industry. 16 so-called “Hell no” localities currently qualify for the opportunity to opt-out of the industry, and are not required to refer such measures to voters.

Rob Bovett, legal counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties, helped craft HB 3400. He says that “counties can pick and choose what works for them… you could see some of the more agricultural areas in the state be OK with (marijuana) production, but not retail.”

“The reason for the law is to allow officials to see what fits with their communities,” he stated.

Others see the law as far more nefarious. In Grants Pass, a town of 35,000 with a longstanding medical marijuana production industry, the city council approved a measure last month requiring cannabis to be grown indoors.

The ordinance immediately drew the ire of cultivators and advocates accustomed to an outdoor grow industry. Pete Gendron, of the Oregon Sungrown Growers Guild, expects a lawsuit to be brought. “Until we win one of these cases in court… I believe [officials] will continue to attempt to ban cultivation in order to stem the supply of legal cannabis.”

Portland attorney Amy Margolis says that some of the state’s bans are understandable. “These counties have tons of outdoor out-of-control grows right now. Southern Oregon is crazy right now… people are complaining. They’re complaining they don’t know their neighbors anymore, they’re complaining about waste water, they’re complaining about people defacing mountains. Some of that is BS, and some of it is not.”

Margolis said that she thinks these rural counties will eventually realize that the industry, when properly regulated, is a net positive, and will come around after seeing the benefits brought to cities like Portland and Eugene.

“This industry’s going to thrive, and that’s because there are a lot of good, smart people working in it,” she said.


Photo Credit: eric.surfdude


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