In the Weeds: Approaches to Regulating Cannabis in Opt-In Communities in Oregon

As a result of the passage of: Ballot Measure 67 (personal growing and use of medical marijuana); Ballot Measure 91 (marijuana growing and use for recreational purposes) and HB 3400 (additional regulations) some cannabis production, processing, wholesaling, dispensing, and retailing is legal in Oregon.

Oregon jurisdictions can opt-in or opt-out of the ability to have these commercial enterprises in their community. For now, jurisdictions can only opt-in for all of none of the commercial enterprises considered as: production, retail, processing and wholesale however, future state legislation may provide an opportunity for a jurisdiction to opt-in to retail or production only without loosing tax revenue benefits. Some jurisdictions have banned these facilities either by a Commission (County) or Council (City) ordinance or through a ballot measure.

When opting-in, communities can adopt reasonable regulations with limitations on the time, place and manner, otherwise, businesses will be subject to regulations developed by the State.  These regulations seek to create reasonable restrictions based on “Time, Place and Manner” for businesses in four separate areas: Production, Processing, Wholesale and Retail. A scan of local jurisdictions notes that communities have responded to this in different ways.  For example, the City of Tualatin has limited the areas that these operations can occur to several industrial sites in their City; the City of Philomath has limited these opportunities to zero sites due to overlapping spatial restrictions and the City of Beaverton has created some standards responding to these uses.

Multnomah County manages land use planning regulations for areas of the County that are rural and unincorporated. These areas of the County are primarily zoned for resources uses-farm and forest land, although the County does have some limited residential, commercial and industrial sites.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) requires facilities to complete a LUCS--land use compatibility statement along with the land use application submitted to the jurisdiction. The form also includes a handy flow chart of how the OLCC process of license issuance. It is important to note, that issuance of a license by the OLCC is not the same as approval by the jurisdiction.

Since the Fall of 2015, Multnomah County has been developing draft of regulations for Marijuana Businesses—and have held a worksession with the Planning Commission as well as hearings in early February with future approval pending by the County Board of Commissioners.

In looking at the land use landscape of Multnomah County, the County felt that their regulations should provide opportunity and flexibility to this new industry while focusing on minimizing conflict with neighbors.  Multnomah County believes there will be most interest in the Production and Processing aspect, rather than Retail or Wholesale which would likely be marketed in more urban areas of the County.  However, Multnomah County is contemplating regulations related to wholesaling, dispensing and retail uses.  Additionally, industry trends seemed to direct resources to indoor grow facilities.

The proposed regulations focus on buildings and their possible impacts to surrounding development. Here are the key highlights of the County’s proposal:

·      Regulations would treat either medical or recreational Marijuana Businesses in the same manner;

·      Operations would be more restrictive in Commercial Forest Use zones—to prohibit large permanent buildings from being established within remote geographic areas;

·      Regulations that control odor, sound and light pollution;

·      Uses within a commercial or residential zone would have limitations on square footage, screening/security mechanisms and setbacks;

·      The regulations emphasize the preservation of the rural character of the County; and

·      Areas within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area are currently prohibited from any marijuana businesses.

The County is also considering innovations which are the result of other development regulations—for example, night sky considerations which would manage the amount of light trespass from a site during the evening to help address the use of high-wattage grow lights and transparent roofing materials.

NOTE: Cities within Multnomah County addresses those land uses outside of unincorporated areas. Look for future blog articles on City of Portland regulations, but for now, information on City regulations are being managed by the Office of Neighborhood Involvement.

Information in this article was based in part on the Staff Report from Multnomah County, PC 2015-4551, a conversation with Adam Barber, Multnomah County Planning Staff in early February and materials provided at a presentation with the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association and New Economy Consulting on January 22, 2016.  Any errors are mine alone.