By editorial board • 

On-farm pot production follows a familiar path

Historically, growing and processing consumables were separate functions performed by separate means, in separate locations, by separate parties. And never the twain did meet.

The farmer grew corn, beans, beets, carrots or what have you on rural farm fields far from town. After harvest, he hauled his bounty to the nearest city for processing.

The processing was done in factories, typically automated and mechanized for maximum efficiency. These factories were sited in industrial zones, thus keeping fumes, odors, pollution, noise and waste from disturbing residents of nearby housing tracts.

In Oregon, that began to change when the state’s nascent wine industry started to reach critical mass. Increasingly, vintners insisted not only on processing their wine in the field, but also in making on-site tasting an integral part of their marketing plan and staging festive food, drink and music events as an added attraction.
Soon, rural residents, a goodly portion of whom were engaged in some level of farming themselves, began to use Oregon’s notoriously picky land use process to fight back.

They said bucolic vineyards were one thing, but processing plants doubling as food, wine and music venues were quite another. They said they were fine with the former, but the latter belonged in urban settings better equipped to handle the noise, traffic and waste generated.

However, there was no slowing the tidal wave of wine-oriented agri-tourism. These days, grapes are, in large measure, processed and marketed on the same rural hillsides on which they are grown.

Then along came the craft beer brewers, olive pressers, mead makers, liquor distillers and jam producers. Could the craft pot producer be far behind? Not in Oregon, not once legalization and regulation were ushered in.

Recently, the county commissioners presided over a battle erupting when a deeply rooted family farmer decided to begin brewing and marketing beer on site, amid fields of hops and grains.

Taking a leaf from the wine industry, he proposed staging food, beer and music events to draw customers. And he prevailed.

Commissioners are now presiding over another battle royale, this one involving an entrepreneurially minded transplant bent on growing and processing marijuana on Dusty Drive.

His tract lies just up from a Muddy Valley vineyard and winery operated by the Momtazi family on a strict biodynamic basis. The Momtazis don’t like the proposed grow much better than the proposed processing plant, but there’s nothing they can do to stop a farmer from growing a legal crop in a farm use zone.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is requiring applicant Richard Wagner to maintain an elaborate security system, suggesting theft risks. The Sheridan Fire District is requiring him to install a 32,000-gallon fire suppression tank, suggesting a fire risk as well — particularly if he uses highly flammable butane, as he reserves the right to do in his application.

It gives one pause, but it’s hard to draw a new line after a veritable parade of vintners, brewers and distillers have trekked past the old one.

Comments

Don Dix

30 years ago, Land use laws allowed the vintners to realize their ideas. And, of course. the fledgling wine industry screamed NIMBY at any résistance to their plans.

Now a 'farmer' is attempting to follow the same path afforded vineyards, only it isn't wine grapes he is proposing. Cannabis is his crop.

The law cannot be twisted to favor any type agriculture in the permitted zones, as the winery would wish. There is no exception to be had.

It's comical how after all the turmoil and finger pointing back in the day has somehow morphed the wineries into the NIMBYs they so publically denounced. Being first does not include being preeminent.



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