By editorial board • 

Pot operations test limits of regulatory

Marijuana used to be a banned psychoactive drug primarily associated with teens and hippies.

Today, nearly two years after Oregonians voted to legalize its recreational as well as medicinal use, the drug has become the subject of a range of civic, political and legal tangles. And that has made it the subject of an array of recent news stories locally.

The marijuana business is booming around the county, as well as the state.

Inside McMinnville city limits alone, four dispensaries are currently selling medical and recreational marijuana. That doesn’t count one just south of town, and the several more are set to open in the near future.

A number of grow operations have been operating under the auspices of the state’s medical marijuana program in recent years.

Five businesses have been authorized by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to also grow marijuana for the recreational market. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see that number more than double during the coming year.

There are, of course, still criminal and public health concerns associated with the drug.

Just last week, a woman was arrested for allegedly serving marijuana-laden brownies to two unsuspecting teens, sending them to the emergency room to undergo treatment for THC overdoses. And studies in Colorado have documented the danger of edibles, from a large increase in accidental ingestion by young children to discovery that myriad state-approved products contained much more or less THC than advertised.

Local governments have been drawn in early and often along the way. Issues included to ban or not to ban and to tax or not to tax.

Then there are more convoluted and case-specific issues.

Take that of prospective pot shop proprietor Coleman Risdon, whose chosen site fell just within 1,000 feet of off-campus but school-owned tennis courts sometimes used by students. The courts were previously part of the city’s parks system, which also falls under the thousand-foot rule.

The planning director denied Risdon’s application. The planning commission reversed on a 4-2 vote on appeal, but we doubt that will stand as the final word on the matter.

Further complicating the matter, since Risdon submitted his application, a competing business was approved across the street. And state law also dictates a 1,000-foot barrier between outlets.

Marijuana is on its way to becoming a leading agricultural commodity in Oregon.

The OLCC has already approved 72 grow permits in Jackson and Josephine counties, in Oregon’s marijuana heartland. Meanwhile, the Oregon State Fair has agreed to host a cannabis exhibit this year, “following the lead of the OLCC and … the Legislature to treat cannabis like any other agricultural commodity in the state.”

So it wasn’t surprising Tuesday when a local grower objected to the siting of a subdivision next door. Anne Thompson of Happy Buddha Farm told the McMinnville City Council she was worried about various potential impacts, including stormwater runoff, but failed in her appeal attempt.

We wonder if an appeal defending a small, diversified farm of vegetables might have left her in better stead.



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