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Jackson County planner proposes language for medical marijuana rules

 Posted: 2:15 PM October 10, 2013

Jackson County officials are putting together suggested rules that will give local governments more control over where medical marijuana dispensaries can be built now that the state has passed a law that allows for distribution of cannabis to Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cardholders.

"It allows the local government to say where these can be located," said Kelly Madding, Jackson County Development Services director and a member of a state subcommittee looking at potential land-use issues for dispensaries. She will submit her proposal to the subcommittee later this week.

Gov. John Kitzhaber signed the dispensary bill into law in August and state officials have until March 2014 to implement it.

An Oregon Health Authority rulemaking committee is working to create a dispensary registration system and write rules for it.

Madding will submit proposed language to the OHA she hopes will give county governments more say-so as to where the facilities are constructed.

"It clarifies the bill and ensures local control," Madding said.

The county's Board of Commissioners had previously expressed concern over being barred from the decision-making process, along with apparent lack of safeguards over the size and scope of dispensary facilities and where they could be constructed.

"There just weren't any rules addressing this," said Commissioner John Rachor. "I think this goes a long ways into kind of narrowing down the places that these dispensaries will be allowed."

As it is currently written, the law says dispensaries can be on land zoned industrial, commercial, mixed-use or agricultural land. Madding's proposed language will restrict mixed-use to commercial/industrial.

Additionally, it would clarify the bill to say dispensaries can only be sited in zones where such use is already allowed, Madding said. Applicants could request a zone change, but the chance of that happening would be unlikely, Madding said.

"This rule would not prevent them from doing this," she said. "But I will say this, getting a zone change is very difficult. You have to show why it should be zoned something different."

"They would still have to go through the land use process like everyone else," Madding said of anyone planning to open a dispensary. "The dispensary would have to be approved through the local land use process prior to the Oregon Health Authority issuing them a registration."

Rachor said he still has concerns over the state legislation, adding he's uncertain the clarifying language goes far enough toward addressing factors like traffic congestion and facility size.

"I'm guessing there will be issues that come up we can't anticipate," Rachor said. "I know this committee had to start somewhere."

— Ryan Pfeil

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