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MADRAS —

About 30 chamber of commerce members turned out Oct. 23 to tour Plantae Health, a marijuana dispensary, among them bankers, escrow officers, a retired engineer, a city councilman, a public health official and the mayor.

The guests sipped coffee and sampled pastries while mingling in the clean, sparse reception area of the dispensary in a small commercial strip on U.S. Highway 97 just south of the center of town.

The morning conviviality gave way to questions and answers.

No, said Andrew Anderson, co-owner of the dispensary with his wife, Jocelyn Anderson, the aroma of marijuana wafting from a neighbor’s greenhouse won’t get you high, and the plant roots do not contaminate the soil with psychoactive chemicals.

A week later, the ribbon-cutting euphoria at Plantae Health, one of three medical marijuana dispensaries in Madras, had evaporated.

The Madras City Council on Tuesday agreed to put on the November 2016 local ballot a ban on all commercial activity surrounding marijuana. That effectively places a moratorium on any new commercial activity involving marijuana until the vote takes place. The next day, Jefferson County made the same move, taking advantage of House Bill 3400, passed in July, that allows counties and municipalities to either enact outright bans or put the question to a local vote.

The growing number of bans and moratoriums on marijuana businesses in Oregon does more than underscore the divide between those in favor of legally buying and selling weed and those opposed. It also sets a stage for a political campaign aimed at voters expected to turn out in large numbers in a presidential election year.

Proponents of marijuana businesses say their side has been silent, cowed by a decades-old stigma against marijuana and upstaged by more vocal opponents. That may change as marijuana advocates make their case to the public or risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments in land and equipment.

“Every county that opts out has some sort of special significance,” said Amy Margolis, of Portland, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Association. “The loss of access, jobs, tax revenues — it’s a lost opportunity. They all have significance, and they’re all important.”

Margolis said the association, which lobbies for marijuana issues and backs pro-marijuana politicians, will likely assist local proponents of commercial marijuana in campaigns to overturn bans next year at the ballot box.

Measure 91, the initiative passed by voters in November 2014 that legalized adult use of recreational marijuana, was purposely written to discourage local bans, she said. The Legislature sidestepped that provision with HB 3400, which gave cities and counties the power to outright ban commercial marijuana where at least 55 percent of voters opposed Measure 91, or to put the question to voters where fewer than 55 percent opposed the measure.

The Oregon Cannabis Association has yet to plan where to deploy its resources in the coming fight, Margolis said. That decision will come after planning sessions and meetings with consultants, she said.

“We engage professionals to make those decisions,” Margolis said Thursday. “We’ll try and target the places that have the most broad impact.”

Some political local leaders in Central Oregon question the wisdom of outright bans but agreed the best solution lies in giving voters another chance to weigh in.

“We’ve never had an opportunity on the east side of the (Cascade) Mountains to vote for something that all of Oregon has voted one way and our side has voted the other,” said Madras Mayor Royce Embanks on Wednesday. “We wanted this to be a democratic process. I didn’t want to sit up there and dictate to people what I wanted them to do. They live here, and so do I, but I owe that to them as mayor.”

Of 39 cities in Oregon that opted out of commercial marijuana licenses under House Bill 3400, so far, 21 imposed outright by city councils. The remaining 18 put the question to voters next year. Deschutes County commissioners considered a ban, but instead decided to regulate through land-use rules to allay rural residents’ concerns over nuisance growing operations. Bend allows recreational sales at medical marijuana dispensaries and created a task force to recommend rules for dispensary locations.

Of 11 counties that imposed bans, so far, eight, including Crook County, were imposed outright. Three, including Jefferson County, will put the question to voters. Prineville, the Crook County seat, in June imposed a ban on recreational marijuana businesses but did not invoke HB 3400. The City Council instead invoked the federal prohibition of marijuana.

Measure 91 “put us in the position of not having rules and regulations to govern these places,” said Prineville City Councilor Jason Carr, on Wednesday. Medical marijuana had many supporters in the city and on council, but recreational marijuana did not, he said. “It was one of the most robust discussions Prineville City Council has had in the three years I’ve been on council.”

The council agreed to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the industrial area west of downtown. The Andersons opened their dispensary there this year. Otherwise, the town is off limits to cannabis purveyors.

At least three companies had approached the city Community Development Department with plans to create large, indoor marijuana growing operations in Prineville, with the prospect of 100-150 jobs, said Phil Stenbeck, the city planning director. That prompted creation of a special zone and consideration of a ban.

“Nearly 60 percent of Crook County residents voted no on recreational marijuana,” Carr said. “That was really our first indication of what the constituency here was thinking and how they viewed that issue.”

In September, the city included a three-question survey in water bills, asking residents to weigh in on marijuana businesses. Of approximately 3,800 surveys sent out, 536 were returned. Respondents opposed recreational marijuana in Prineville by more than 2 to 1, according to the results reported Oct. 13 by Stenbeck.

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe questioned the validity of the survey. Only one survey went to each household, she said, not to individual voters.

“It’s not a legitimate survey, in my opinion,” Roppe said. “As an example, there are two voters in my household, and we don’t always agree.”

Roppe, who said she is not opposed to personal cultivation and use of recreational marijuana, nonetheless voted in favor of the ban. The council heard from a majority who spoke against marijuana, and some councilors were troubled by the federal law. If that law changes, she said, Prineville will probably revisit its ban.

“I think that can potentially change when they see what happens with it in a year,” Roppe said Thursday.

A generational gap

In Jefferson County, the prospect of marijuana farms, shops and processing plants cropping up in their midst spurred residents of Crooked River Ranch to turn up in force to oppose marijuana businesses in their unincorporated area of the county. The subdivision is one of three areas with commercial zones in a county otherwise dominated by agriculture. Residents of Crooked River Ranch recoiled from the prospect of strong aromas and bright lights sometimes associated with marijuana greenhouses, said Commission Chairman Wayne Fording. Legal marijuana is also a significant social change for a generation that considers it a dangerous drug.

“There are a lot of retirees out at the ranch,” Fording said. “There’s a generational thing going on. They’re seeing a lot of these medical grows popping up out there; are they growing medical weed for the six people you’re holding cards for, or for a surplus you’re selling into the black market?”

Marijuana opponents simply outweighed its proponents, Fording said. He said “probably 95 percent” of those who spoke at public hearings and commission sessions opposed marijuana altogether. That made the commissioners’ decision easy, he said.

“The proponents just didn’t come out for it,” Fording said. “It was pretty one-sided through the whole process.”

Not that elected councilors and commissioners uniformly agreed on bans and moratoriums. Some, like Embanks and Councilman Tom Brown, both of Madras, and Roppe, of Prineville, said they were open to marijuana business but had concerns about public health and safety issues. They and other officials said that, beyond moral objections, their constituents often cited the potential for children to ingest candies and baked goods infused with strong marijuana extracts, or the prospect of stoned drivers causing traffic casualties.

Brown, who, with Embanks, was present at Plantae Health on Oct. 23, said a legal, regulated operation keeps marijuana businesses accountable. Jefferson County Commissioner Mike Ahern on Wednesday said he, personally, is in favor of regulated marijuana businesses.

“I want to expand people’s property rights,” he said, “not restrict them.”

Carr, of Prineville, who said he voted according to what he perceived to be the popular will, nonetheless said he generally stands on the side of free enterprise. This time, he said, constituent concerns outweighed the capitalist argument. The bans present an opportunity, he said, for marijuana proponents to step up and make their case.

“I think that the message to the proponents is that we believe it’s their responsibility to shift the attitude in the community,” Carr said. “If they believe strongly in wanting to open up dispensaries and have businesses related to marijuana, they need to advocate that to voters.”

A plan from proponents

Dispensary owners said they plan on continued outreach to swing the public to their side. Anderson and others invite public officials for tours, make public presentations and donate to community organizations and causes. Dispensary owners say they operate under regulations and, because of federal strictures, legal handicaps unlike those faced by any other businesses.

The Andersons, who moved from Chico, California, in 2014, grow and process their marijuana at an 8,000-square-foot greenhouse operation in Alfalfa. They plan on expanding that to 30,000 square feet and eventually putting 30 to 40 people to work on their farm and dispensaries in Madras and Prineville. Based on a 3 percent municipal sales tax on recreational marijuana that Madras contemplated, Jocelyn Anderson estimated she would pay about $24,000 to the city each year on about $800,000 in sales.

Mike Boynton, owner of Central Organics, another Madras dispensary, said rallying supporters is tough. Most don’t want to be known publicly as marijuana users, he said.

“Some of our customers want to use recreational cannabis to calm down after a hard day’s work,” Boynton said. “But they’re concerned; they park down the street and walk over here. Those are some of the people that are afraid to come and speak in front of the council.”

Boynton and Anderson said limited sales of recreational marijuana, which became legal Oct. 1, outpace medical sales by 2 or 3 to 1. Dispensaries may sell a quarter-ounce of dried flower a day to individual customers until December 2016.

Anderson and Boynton said they planned on shifting to recreational sales solely or opening a separate, medical dispensary once the rules established by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for recreational marijuana take effect next year. If the bans remain in place, their operations will remain open, selling only to medical marijuana cardholders after Dec. 31, 2016, they said.

“There’s definitely a lot of the community that’s opposed to cannabis, especially recreational cannabis,” Jocelyn Anderson said Wednesday. “People are making judgments about cannabis or the industry without making any effort to come to the store to see how it is.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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MADRAS —

About 30 chamber of commerce members turned out Oct. 23 to tour Plantae Health, a marijuana dispensary, among them bankers, escrow officers, a retired engineer, a city councilman, a public health official and the mayor.

The guests sipped coffee and sampled pastries while mingling in the clean, sparse reception area of the dispensary in a small commercial strip on U.S. Highway 97 just south of the center of town.

The morning conviviality gave way to questions and answers.

No, said Andrew Anderson, co-owner of the dispensary with his wife, Jocelyn Anderson, the aroma of marijuana wafting from a neighbor’s greenhouse won’t get you high, and the plant roots do not contaminate the soil with psychoactive chemicals.

A week later, the ribbon-cutting euphoria at Plantae Health, one of three medical marijuana dispensaries in Madras, had evaporated.

The Madras City Council on Tuesday agreed to put on the November 2016 local ballot a ban on all commercial activity surrounding marijuana. That effectively places a moratorium on any new commercial activity involving marijuana until the vote takes place. The next day, Jefferson County made the same move, taking advantage of House Bill 3400, passed in July, that allows counties and municipalities to either enact outright bans or put the question to a local vote.

The growing number of bans and moratoriums on marijuana businesses in Oregon does more than underscore the divide between those in favor of legally buying and selling weed and those opposed. It also sets a stage for a political campaign aimed at voters expected to turn out in large numbers in a presidential election year.

Proponents of marijuana businesses say their side has been silent, cowed by a decades-old stigma against marijuana and upstaged by more vocal opponents. That may change as marijuana advocates make their case to the public or risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments in land and equipment.

“Every county that opts out has some sort of special significance,” said Amy Margolis, of Portland, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Association. “The loss of access, jobs, tax revenues — it’s a lost opportunity. They all have significance, and they’re all important.”

Margolis said the association, which lobbies for marijuana issues and backs pro-marijuana politicians, will likely assist local proponents of commercial marijuana in campaigns to overturn bans next year at the ballot box.

Measure 91, the initiative passed by voters in November 2014 that legalized adult use of recreational marijuana, was purposely written to discourage local bans, she said. The Legislature sidestepped that provision with HB 3400, which gave cities and counties the power to outright ban commercial marijuana where at least 55 percent of voters opposed Measure 91, or to put the question to voters where fewer than 55 percent opposed the measure.

The Oregon Cannabis Association has yet to plan where to deploy its resources in the coming fight, Margolis said. That decision will come after planning sessions and meetings with consultants, she said.

“We engage professionals to make those decisions,” Margolis said Thursday. “We’ll try and target the places that have the most broad impact.”

Some political local leaders in Central Oregon question the wisdom of outright bans but agreed the best solution lies in giving voters another chance to weigh in.

“We’ve never had an opportunity on the east side of the (Cascade) Mountains to vote for something that all of Oregon has voted one way and our side has voted the other,” said Madras Mayor Royce Embanks on Wednesday. “We wanted this to be a democratic process. I didn’t want to sit up there and dictate to people what I wanted them to do. They live here, and so do I, but I owe that to them as mayor.”

Of 39 cities in Oregon that opted out of commercial marijuana licenses under House Bill 3400, so far, 21 imposed outright by city councils. The remaining 18 put the question to voters next year. Deschutes County commissioners considered a ban, but instead decided to regulate through land-use rules to allay rural residents’ concerns over nuisance growing operations. Bend allows recreational sales at medical marijuana dispensaries and created a task force to recommend rules for dispensary locations.

Of 11 counties that imposed bans, so far, eight, including Crook County, were imposed outright. Three, including Jefferson County, will put the question to voters. Prineville, the Crook County seat, in June imposed a ban on recreational marijuana businesses but did not invoke HB 3400. The City Council instead invoked the federal prohibition of marijuana.

Measure 91 “put us in the position of not having rules and regulations to govern these places,” said Prineville City Councilor Jason Carr, on Wednesday. Medical marijuana had many supporters in the city and on council, but recreational marijuana did not, he said. “It was one of the most robust discussions Prineville City Council has had in the three years I’ve been on council.”

The council agreed to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the industrial area west of downtown. The Andersons opened their dispensary there this year. Otherwise, the town is off limits to cannabis purveyors.

At least three companies had approached the city Community Development Department with plans to create large, indoor marijuana growing operations in Prineville, with the prospect of 100-150 jobs, said Phil Stenbeck, the city planning director. That prompted creation of a special zone and consideration of a ban.

“Nearly 60 percent of Crook County residents voted no on recreational marijuana,” Carr said. “That was really our first indication of what the constituency here was thinking and how they viewed that issue.”

In September, the city included a three-question survey in water bills, asking residents to weigh in on marijuana businesses. Of approximately 3,800 surveys sent out, 536 were returned. Respondents opposed recreational marijuana in Prineville by more than 2 to 1, according to the results reported Oct. 13 by Stenbeck.

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe questioned the validity of the survey. Only one survey went to each household, she said, not to individual voters.

“It’s not a legitimate survey, in my opinion,” Roppe said. “As an example, there are two voters in my household, and we don’t always agree.”

Roppe, who said she is not opposed to personal cultivation and use of recreational marijuana, nonetheless voted in favor of the ban. The council heard from a majority who spoke against marijuana, and some councilors were troubled by the federal law. If that law changes, she said, Prineville will probably revisit its ban.

“I think that can potentially change when they see what happens with it in a year,” Roppe said Thursday.

A generational gap

In Jefferson County, the prospect of marijuana farms, shops and processing plants cropping up in their midst spurred residents of Crooked River Ranch to turn up in force to oppose marijuana businesses in their unincorporated area of the county. The subdivision is one of three areas with commercial zones in a county otherwise dominated by agriculture. Residents of Crooked River Ranch recoiled from the prospect of strong aromas and bright lights sometimes associated with marijuana greenhouses, said Commission Chairman Wayne Fording. Legal marijuana is also a significant social change for a generation that considers it a dangerous drug.

“There are a lot of retirees out at the ranch,” Fording said. “There’s a generational thing going on. They’re seeing a lot of these medical grows popping up out there; are they growing medical weed for the six people you’re holding cards for, or for a surplus you’re selling into the black market?”

Marijuana opponents simply outweighed its proponents, Fording said. He said “probably 95 percent” of those who spoke at public hearings and commission sessions opposed marijuana altogether. That made the commissioners’ decision easy, he said.

“The proponents just didn’t come out for it,” Fording said. “It was pretty one-sided through the whole process.”

Not that elected councilors and commissioners uniformly agreed on bans and moratoriums. Some, like Embanks and Councilman Tom Brown, both of Madras, and Roppe, of Prineville, said they were open to marijuana business but had concerns about public health and safety issues. They and other officials said that, beyond moral objections, their constituents often cited the potential for children to ingest candies and baked goods infused with strong marijuana extracts, or the prospect of stoned drivers causing traffic casualties.

Brown, who, with Embanks, was present at Plantae Health on Oct. 23, said a legal, regulated operation keeps marijuana businesses accountable. Jefferson County Commissioner Mike Ahern on Wednesday said he, personally, is in favor of regulated marijuana businesses.

“I want to expand people’s property rights,” he said, “not restrict them.”

Carr, of Prineville, who said he voted according to what he perceived to be the popular will, nonetheless said he generally stands on the side of free enterprise. This time, he said, constituent concerns outweighed the capitalist argument. The bans present an opportunity, he said, for marijuana proponents to step up and make their case.

“I think that the message to the proponents is that we believe it’s their responsibility to shift the attitude in the community,” Carr said. “If they believe strongly in wanting to open up dispensaries and have businesses related to marijuana, they need to advocate that to voters.”

A plan from proponents

Dispensary owners said they plan on continued outreach to swing the public to their side. Anderson and others invite public officials for tours, make public presentations and donate to community organizations and causes. Dispensary owners say they operate under regulations and, because of federal strictures, legal handicaps unlike those faced by any other businesses.

The Andersons, who moved from Chico, California, in 2014, grow and process their marijuana at an 8,000-square-foot greenhouse operation in Alfalfa. They plan on expanding that to 30,000 square feet and eventually putting 30 to 40 people to work on their farm and dispensaries in Madras and Prineville. Based on a 3 percent municipal sales tax on recreational marijuana that Madras contemplated, Jocelyn Anderson estimated she would pay about $24,000 to the city each year on about $800,000 in sales.

Mike Boynton, owner of Central Organics, another Madras dispensary, said rallying supporters is tough. Most don’t want to be known publicly as marijuana users, he said.

“Some of our customers want to use recreational cannabis to calm down after a hard day’s work,” Boynton said. “But they’re concerned; they park down the street and walk over here. Those are some of the people that are afraid to come and speak in front of the council.”

Boynton and Anderson said limited sales of recreational marijuana, which became legal Oct. 1, outpace medical sales by 2 or 3 to 1. Dispensaries may sell a quarter-ounce of dried flower a day to individual customers until December 2016.

Anderson and Boynton said they planned on shifting to recreational sales solely or opening a separate, medical dispensary once the rules established by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for recreational marijuana take effect next year. If the bans remain in place, their operations will remain open, selling only to medical marijuana cardholders after Dec. 31, 2016, they said.

“There’s definitely a lot of the community that’s opposed to cannabis, especially recreational cannabis,” Jocelyn Anderson said Wednesday. “People are making judgments about cannabis or the industry without making any effort to come to the store to see how it is.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

–><!–

MADRAS —

About 30 chamber of commerce members turned out Oct. 23 to tour Plantae Health, a marijuana dispensary, among them bankers, escrow officers, a retired engineer, a city councilman, a public health official and the mayor.

The guests sipped coffee and sampled pastries while mingling in the clean, sparse reception area of the dispensary in a small commercial strip on U.S. Highway 97 just south of the center of town.

The morning conviviality gave way to questions and answers.

No, said Andrew Anderson, co-owner of the dispensary with his wife, Jocelyn Anderson, the aroma of marijuana wafting from a neighbor’s greenhouse won’t get you high, and the plant roots do not contaminate the soil with psychoactive chemicals.

A week later, the ribbon-cutting euphoria at Plantae Health, one of three medical marijuana dispensaries in Madras, had evaporated.

The Madras City Council on Tuesday agreed to put on the November 2016 local ballot a ban on all commercial activity surrounding marijuana. That effectively places a moratorium on any new commercial activity involving marijuana until the vote takes place. The next day, Jefferson County made the same move, taking advantage of House Bill 3400, passed in July, that allows counties and municipalities to either enact outright bans or put the question to a local vote.

The growing number of bans and moratoriums on marijuana businesses in Oregon does more than underscore the divide between those in favor of legally buying and selling weed and those opposed. It also sets a stage for a political campaign aimed at voters expected to turn out in large numbers in a presidential election year.

Proponents of marijuana businesses say their side has been silent, cowed by a decades-old stigma against marijuana and upstaged by more vocal opponents. That may change as marijuana advocates make their case to the public or risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments in land and equipment.

“Every county that opts out has some sort of special significance,” said Amy Margolis, of Portland, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Association. “The loss of access, jobs, tax revenues — it’s a lost opportunity. They all have significance, and they’re all important.”

Margolis said the association, which lobbies for marijuana issues and backs pro-marijuana politicians, will likely assist local proponents of commercial marijuana in campaigns to overturn bans next year at the ballot box.

Measure 91, the initiative passed by voters in November 2014 that legalized adult use of recreational marijuana, was purposely written to discourage local bans, she said. The Legislature sidestepped that provision with HB 3400, which gave cities and counties the power to outright ban commercial marijuana where at least 55 percent of voters opposed Measure 91, or to put the question to voters where fewer than 55 percent opposed the measure.

The Oregon Cannabis Association has yet to plan where to deploy its resources in the coming fight, Margolis said. That decision will come after planning sessions and meetings with consultants, she said.

“We engage professionals to make those decisions,” Margolis said Thursday. “We’ll try and target the places that have the most broad impact.”

Some political local leaders in Central Oregon question the wisdom of outright bans but agreed the best solution lies in giving voters another chance to weigh in.

“We’ve never had an opportunity on the east side of the (Cascade) Mountains to vote for something that all of Oregon has voted one way and our side has voted the other,” said Madras Mayor Royce Embanks on Wednesday. “We wanted this to be a democratic process. I didn’t want to sit up there and dictate to people what I wanted them to do. They live here, and so do I, but I owe that to them as mayor.”

Of 39 cities in Oregon that opted out of commercial marijuana licenses under House Bill 3400, so far, 21 imposed outright by city councils. The remaining 18 put the question to voters next year. Deschutes County commissioners considered a ban, but instead decided to regulate through land-use rules to allay rural residents’ concerns over nuisance growing operations. Bend allows recreational sales at medical marijuana dispensaries and created a task force to recommend rules for dispensary locations.

Of 11 counties that imposed bans, so far, eight, including Crook County, were imposed outright. Three, including Jefferson County, will put the question to voters. Prineville, the Crook County seat, in June imposed a ban on recreational marijuana businesses but did not invoke HB 3400. The City Council instead invoked the federal prohibition of marijuana.

Measure 91 “put us in the position of not having rules and regulations to govern these places,” said Prineville City Councilor Jason Carr, on Wednesday. Medical marijuana had many supporters in the city and on council, but recreational marijuana did not, he said. “It was one of the most robust discussions Prineville City Council has had in the three years I’ve been on council.”

The council agreed to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the industrial area west of downtown. The Andersons opened their dispensary there this year. Otherwise, the town is off limits to cannabis purveyors.

At least three companies had approached the city Community Development Department with plans to create large, indoor marijuana growing operations in Prineville, with the prospect of 100-150 jobs, said Phil Stenbeck, the city planning director. That prompted creation of a special zone and consideration of a ban.

“Nearly 60 percent of Crook County residents voted no on recreational marijuana,” Carr said. “That was really our first indication of what the constituency here was thinking and how they viewed that issue.”

In September, the city included a three-question survey in water bills, asking residents to weigh in on marijuana businesses. Of approximately 3,800 surveys sent out, 536 were returned. Respondents opposed recreational marijuana in Prineville by more than 2 to 1, according to the results reported Oct. 13 by Stenbeck.

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe questioned the validity of the survey. Only one survey went to each household, she said, not to individual voters.

“It’s not a legitimate survey, in my opinion,” Roppe said. “As an example, there are two voters in my household, and we don’t always agree.”

Roppe, who said she is not opposed to personal cultivation and use of recreational marijuana, nonetheless voted in favor of the ban. The council heard from a majority who spoke against marijuana, and some councilors were troubled by the federal law. If that law changes, she said, Prineville will probably revisit its ban.

“I think that can potentially change when they see what happens with it in a year,” Roppe said Thursday.

A generational gap

In Jefferson County, the prospect of marijuana farms, shops and processing plants cropping up in their midst spurred residents of Crooked River Ranch to turn up in force to oppose marijuana businesses in their unincorporated area of the county. The subdivision is one of three areas with commercial zones in a county otherwise dominated by agriculture. Residents of Crooked River Ranch recoiled from the prospect of strong aromas and bright lights sometimes associated with marijuana greenhouses, said Commission Chairman Wayne Fording. Legal marijuana is also a significant social change for a generation that considers it a dangerous drug.

“There are a lot of retirees out at the ranch,” Fording said. “There’s a generational thing going on. They’re seeing a lot of these medical grows popping up out there; are they growing medical weed for the six people you’re holding cards for, or for a surplus you’re selling into the black market?”

Marijuana opponents simply outweighed its proponents, Fording said. He said “probably 95 percent” of those who spoke at public hearings and commission sessions opposed marijuana altogether. That made the commissioners’ decision easy, he said.

“The proponents just didn’t come out for it,” Fording said. “It was pretty one-sided through the whole process.”

Not that elected councilors and commissioners uniformly agreed on bans and moratoriums. Some, like Embanks and Councilman Tom Brown, both of Madras, and Roppe, of Prineville, said they were open to marijuana business but had concerns about public health and safety issues. They and other officials said that, beyond moral objections, their constituents often cited the potential for children to ingest candies and baked goods infused with strong marijuana extracts, or the prospect of stoned drivers causing traffic casualties.

Brown, who, with Embanks, was present at Plantae Health on Oct. 23, said a legal, regulated operation keeps marijuana businesses accountable. Jefferson County Commissioner Mike Ahern on Wednesday said he, personally, is in favor of regulated marijuana businesses.

“I want to expand people’s property rights,” he said, “not restrict them.”

Carr, of Prineville, who said he voted according to what he perceived to be the popular will, nonetheless said he generally stands on the side of free enterprise. This time, he said, constituent concerns outweighed the capitalist argument. The bans present an opportunity, he said, for marijuana proponents to step up and make their case.

“I think that the message to the proponents is that we believe it’s their responsibility to shift the attitude in the community,” Carr said. “If they believe strongly in wanting to open up dispensaries and have businesses related to marijuana, they need to advocate that to voters.”

A plan from proponents

Dispensary owners said they plan on continued outreach to swing the public to their side. Anderson and others invite public officials for tours, make public presentations and donate to community organizations and causes. Dispensary owners say they operate under regulations and, because of federal strictures, legal handicaps unlike those faced by any other businesses.

The Andersons, who moved from Chico, California, in 2014, grow and process their marijuana at an 8,000-square-foot greenhouse operation in Alfalfa. They plan on expanding that to 30,000 square feet and eventually putting 30 to 40 people to work on their farm and dispensaries in Madras and Prineville. Based on a 3 percent municipal sales tax on recreational marijuana that Madras contemplated, Jocelyn Anderson estimated she would pay about $24,000 to the city each year on about $800,000 in sales.

Mike Boynton, owner of Central Organics, another Madras dispensary, said rallying supporters is tough. Most don’t want to be known publicly as marijuana users, he said.

“Some of our customers want to use recreational cannabis to calm down after a hard day’s work,” Boynton said. “But they’re concerned; they park down the street and walk over here. Those are some of the people that are afraid to come and speak in front of the council.”

Boynton and Anderson said limited sales of recreational marijuana, which became legal Oct. 1, outpace medical sales by 2 or 3 to 1. Dispensaries may sell a quarter-ounce of dried flower a day to individual customers until December 2016.

Anderson and Boynton said they planned on shifting to recreational sales solely or opening a separate, medical dispensary once the rules established by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for recreational marijuana take effect next year. If the bans remain in place, their operations will remain open, selling only to medical marijuana cardholders after Dec. 31, 2016, they said.

“There’s definitely a lot of the community that’s opposed to cannabis, especially recreational cannabis,” Jocelyn Anderson said Wednesday. “People are making judgments about cannabis or the industry without making any effort to come to the store to see how it is.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

–>

MADRAS —

About 30 chamber of commerce members turned out Oct. 23 to tour Plantae Health, a marijuana dispensary, among them bankers, escrow officers, a retired engineer, a city councilman, a public health official and the mayor.

The guests sipped coffee and sampled pastries while mingling in the clean, sparse reception area of the dispensary in a small commercial strip on U.S. Highway 97 just south of the center of town.

The morning conviviality gave way to questions and answers.

No, said Andrew Anderson, co-owner of the dispensary with his wife, Jocelyn Anderson, the aroma of marijuana wafting from a neighbor’s greenhouse won’t get you high, and the plant roots do not contaminate the soil with psychoactive chemicals.

A week later, the ribbon-cutting euphoria at Plantae Health, one of three medical marijuana dispensaries in Madras, had evaporated.

The Madras City Council on Tuesday agreed to put on the November 2016 local ballot a ban on all commercial activity surrounding marijuana. That effectively places a moratorium on any new commercial activity involving marijuana until the vote takes place. The next day, Jefferson County made the same move, taking advantage of House Bill 3400, passed in July, that allows counties and municipalities to either enact outright bans or put the question to a local vote.

The growing number of bans and moratoriums on marijuana businesses in Oregon does more than underscore the divide between those in favor of legally buying and selling weed and those opposed. It also sets a stage for a political campaign aimed at voters expected to turn out in large numbers in a presidential election year.

Proponents of marijuana businesses say their side has been silent, cowed by a decades-old stigma against marijuana and upstaged by more vocal opponents. That may change as marijuana advocates make their case to the public or risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments in land and equipment.

“Every county that opts out has some sort of special significance,” said Amy Margolis, of Portland, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Association. “The loss of access, jobs, tax revenues — it’s a lost opportunity. They all have significance, and they’re all important.”

Margolis said the association, which lobbies for marijuana issues and backs pro-marijuana politicians, will likely assist local proponents of commercial marijuana in campaigns to overturn bans next year at the ballot box.

Measure 91, the initiative passed by voters in November 2014 that legalized adult use of recreational marijuana, was purposely written to discourage local bans, she said. The Legislature sidestepped that provision with HB 3400, which gave cities and counties the power to outright ban commercial marijuana where at least 55 percent of voters opposed Measure 91, or to put the question to voters where fewer than 55 percent opposed the measure.

The Oregon Cannabis Association has yet to plan where to deploy its resources in the coming fight, Margolis said. That decision will come after planning sessions and meetings with consultants, she said.

“We engage professionals to make those decisions,” Margolis said Thursday. “We’ll try and target the places that have the most broad impact.”

Some political local leaders in Central Oregon question the wisdom of outright bans but agreed the best solution lies in giving voters another chance to weigh in.

“We’ve never had an opportunity on the east side of the (Cascade) Mountains to vote for something that all of Oregon has voted one way and our side has voted the other,” said Madras Mayor Royce Embanks on Wednesday. “We wanted this to be a democratic process. I didn’t want to sit up there and dictate to people what I wanted them to do. They live here, and so do I, but I owe that to them as mayor.”

Of 39 cities in Oregon that opted out of commercial marijuana licenses under House Bill 3400, so far, 21 imposed outright by city councils. The remaining 18 put the question to voters next year. Deschutes County commissioners considered a ban, but instead decided to regulate through land-use rules to allay rural residents’ concerns over nuisance growing operations. Bend allows recreational sales at medical marijuana dispensaries and created a task force to recommend rules for dispensary locations.

Of 11 counties that imposed bans, so far, eight, including Crook County, were imposed outright. Three, including Jefferson County, will put the question to voters. Prineville, the Crook County seat, in June imposed a ban on recreational marijuana businesses but did not invoke HB 3400. The City Council instead invoked the federal prohibition of marijuana.

Measure 91 “put us in the position of not having rules and regulations to govern these places,” said Prineville City Councilor Jason Carr, on Wednesday. Medical marijuana had many supporters in the city and on council, but recreational marijuana did not, he said. “It was one of the most robust discussions Prineville City Council has had in the three years I’ve been on council.”

The council agreed to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the industrial area west of downtown. The Andersons opened their dispensary there this year. Otherwise, the town is off limits to cannabis purveyors.

At least three companies had approached the city Community Development Department with plans to create large, indoor marijuana growing operations in Prineville, with the prospect of 100-150 jobs, said Phil Stenbeck, the city planning director. That prompted creation of a special zone and consideration of a ban.

“Nearly 60 percent of Crook County residents voted no on recreational marijuana,” Carr said. “That was really our first indication of what the constituency here was thinking and how they viewed that issue.”

In September, the city included a three-question survey in water bills, asking residents to weigh in on marijuana businesses. Of approximately 3,800 surveys sent out, 536 were returned. Respondents opposed recreational marijuana in Prineville by more than 2 to 1, according to the results reported Oct. 13 by Stenbeck.

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe questioned the validity of the survey. Only one survey went to each household, she said, not to individual voters.

“It’s not a legitimate survey, in my opinion,” Roppe said. “As an example, there are two voters in my household, and we don’t always agree.”

Roppe, who said she is not opposed to personal cultivation and use of recreational marijuana, nonetheless voted in favor of the ban. The council heard from a majority who spoke against marijuana, and some councilors were troubled by the federal law. If that law changes, she said, Prineville will probably revisit its ban.

“I think that can potentially change when they see what happens with it in a year,” Roppe said Thursday.

A generational gap

In Jefferson County, the prospect of marijuana farms, shops and processing plants cropping up in their midst spurred residents of Crooked River Ranch to turn up in force to oppose marijuana businesses in their unincorporated area of the county. The subdivision is one of three areas with commercial zones in a county otherwise dominated by agriculture. Residents of Crooked River Ranch recoiled from the prospect of strong aromas and bright lights sometimes associated with marijuana greenhouses, said Commission Chairman Wayne Fording. Legal marijuana is also a significant social change for a generation that considers it a dangerous drug.

“There are a lot of retirees out at the ranch,” Fording said. “There’s a generational thing going on. They’re seeing a lot of these medical grows popping up out there; are they growing medical weed for the six people you’re holding cards for, or for a surplus you’re selling into the black market?”

Marijuana opponents simply outweighed its proponents, Fording said. He said “probably 95 percent” of those who spoke at public hearings and commission sessions opposed marijuana altogether. That made the commissioners’ decision easy, he said.

“The proponents just didn’t come out for it,” Fording said. “It was pretty one-sided through the whole process.”

Not that elected councilors and commissioners uniformly agreed on bans and moratoriums. Some, like Embanks and Councilman Tom Brown, both of Madras, and Roppe, of Prineville, said they were open to marijuana business but had concerns about public health and safety issues. They and other officials said that, beyond moral objections, their constituents often cited the potential for children to ingest candies and baked goods infused with strong marijuana extracts, or the prospect of stoned drivers causing traffic casualties.

Brown, who, with Embanks, was present at Plantae Health on Oct. 23, said a legal, regulated operation keeps marijuana businesses accountable. Jefferson County Commissioner Mike Ahern on Wednesday said he, personally, is in favor of regulated marijuana businesses.

“I want to expand people’s property rights,” he said, “not restrict them.”

Carr, of Prineville, who said he voted according to what he perceived to be the popular will, nonetheless said he generally stands on the side of free enterprise. This time, he said, constituent concerns outweighed the capitalist argument. The bans present an opportunity, he said, for marijuana proponents to step up and make their case.

“I think that the message to the proponents is that we believe it’s their responsibility to shift the attitude in the community,” Carr said. “If they believe strongly in wanting to open up dispensaries and have businesses related to marijuana, they need to advocate that to voters.”

A plan from proponents

Dispensary owners said they plan on continued outreach to swing the public to their side. Anderson and others invite public officials for tours, make public presentations and donate to community organizations and causes. Dispensary owners say they operate under regulations and, because of federal strictures, legal handicaps unlike those faced by any other businesses.

The Andersons, who moved from Chico, California, in 2014, grow and process their marijuana at an 8,000-square-foot greenhouse operation in Alfalfa. They plan on expanding that to 30,000 square feet and eventually putting 30 to 40 people to work on their farm and dispensaries in Madras and Prineville. Based on a 3 percent municipal sales tax on recreational marijuana that Madras contemplated, Jocelyn Anderson estimated she would pay about $24,000 to the city each year on about $800,000 in sales.

Mike Boynton, owner of Central Organics, another Madras dispensary, said rallying supporters is tough. Most don’t want to be known publicly as marijuana users, he said.

“Some of our customers want to use recreational cannabis to calm down after a hard day’s work,” Boynton said. “But they’re concerned; they park down the street and walk over here. Those are some of the people that are afraid to come and speak in front of the council.”

Boynton and Anderson said limited sales of recreational marijuana, which became legal Oct. 1, outpace medical sales by 2 or 3 to 1. Dispensaries may sell a quarter-ounce of dried flower a day to individual customers until December 2016.

Anderson and Boynton said they planned on shifting to recreational sales solely or opening a separate, medical dispensary once the rules established by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for recreational marijuana take effect next year. If the bans remain in place, their operations will remain open, selling only to medical marijuana cardholders after Dec. 31, 2016, they said.

“There’s definitely a lot of the community that’s opposed to cannabis, especially recreational cannabis,” Jocelyn Anderson said Wednesday. “People are making judgments about cannabis or the industry without making any effort to come to the store to see how it is.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com


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