SALEM — Deschutes County’s one-of-a-kind charge on the marijuana industry was effectively killed under a bill Gov. Kate Brown signed into law Friday.
Senate Bill 365 bars counties from imposing system development charges on marijuana producers.
Deschutes County is the only one of Oregon’s 36 counties to have implemented such a charge. County commissioners voted in 2016 to charge marijuana producers for what they said was the burgeoning industry’s impact on county roads.
The bill carries an emergency clause, meaning it becomes effective immediately.
Deschutes County has collected $80,000 from the charge, according to Chris Doty, director of the Deschutes County Road Department. The charge is $0.81 per square foot. The average charge per marijuana growing operation is $11,835. Operators are charged once the county verifies they are generating trips on its roads.
Deschutes County commissioners Phil Henderson, Patti Adair and Tony DeBone, submitted written testimony against the bill during a February hearing of the Senate Committee on Business and General Government.
“To date, Deschutes County has received 63 applications for marijuana growing operations with a combined canopy area approaching 1 million square feet,” the commissioners wrote. “By our conservative estimates and calculations, the marijuana industry is responsible for approximately 1,600 new daily trips added and 175 trips added during the peak hour.”
Testimony against the bill was also submitted by Deschutes County’s public works and community development agencies, as well as several county residents. Most argued the marijuana industry needed to pay for its rapid, large impact and cost on the county’s infrastructure.
The bill was supported by the Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, who argued that it was unfair to single out one legal agricultural crop for the charge.
The Senate panel approved the bill 4-0. Similar testimony was heard by the House Committee on Economic Development, which approved the bill 7-4.
SB 365 is listed as a bill requested by the House Committee on the Judiciary. Such bills do not carry the name of a specific lawmaker as a sponsor. The bill was carried on the Senate floor by Sen. Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro. It was approved April 10 by a 25-5 vote, with Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, voting no.
The bill was carried on the House floor by Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton. It was approved May 29 by a 40-19 vote, with Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend and Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond both voting no.
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