Organ: Marijuana growers, processors face complex rules

Article by Saul Hubbard, Associated Press


As recreational marijuana cultivation emerges from decades in the shadows in Oregon, residents face a vexing challenge: Where will new licensed farms, processing plants and retailers be allowed to locate?

Banned outright in big chunks of the state, recreational marijuana facilities face a complicated patchwork of quickly drafted local land-use laws in areas such as Lane County.

Those local rules are, at times, viewed as too permissive by longtime residents suddenly confronted with the reality of a new marijuana farm or processing facility nearby, The Register-Guard reported ( Commercial-scale marijuana producers, meanwhile, want to be able to proceed with their new business ventures without unreasonable hassles from neighbors or bureaucratic barriers from local officials.

Last December, Cassie Heckenkamp and Jeff Smith spent $920,000 to buy 19 acres of bucolic land off the McKenzie River east of Walterville.

Backed by several local and out-of-state investors, the couple’s plan was to start a 5,000-square-foot indoor commercial recreational marijuana grow in an old agricultural storage building and a 40,000-square-foot outdoor grow in an adjacent 16-acre field they have an option to buy. They would live on the isolated property, which is surrounded by mostly open fields and farms.

But less than two weeks later, the Lane County Board of Commissioners banned any commercial recreational marijuana cultivation on all land outside city growth boundaries that is zoned as rural residential. The board cited concerns about the crop’s odor and the crime the all-cash businesses might bring to rural areas. Heckenkamp and Smith’s new property – like about 68,000 acres across Lane County – is zoned rural residential. The board’s decision caught them by surprise and left their business plan in tatters. “I assumed that (the county) would be like Eugene,” says Heckenkamp, a 43-year-old who has operated big recreational marijuana grows in Colorado, where pot is legal, and medical marijuana ones in Arizona in recent years.

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