When Oregon legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, it was a revolutionary change.
Deschutes County commissioners seek to become leaders of a counter-revolution. They want Deschutes County to be the first county to reverse its decision to allow pot production.
On Aug. 19, unless something drastic changes, all three commissioners are likely to support an ordinance that will put what the county says may well be several opt out votes on the November 2020 ballot. Depending on what the commissioners decide, there could be an opt out vote on each of production, retail operations and more. County residents should reject the commission’s plans.
Legalizing marijuana has been a difficult transition. Law enforcement has struggled to deal with it. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is so backed up in dealing with applications the Legislature implemented a moratorium. It doesn’t mean Deschutes County should just give up.
Deschutes County commissioners have wrestled into place regulations they are happy with, growers are happy with and residents near grows are happy with. The county’s rural land that is suitable for farming is owned by a lot of people who aren’t really farmers and/or don’t want to smell the odors that come with farming. As Commissioner Tony DeBone put it, they want to see bucolic fields of green and not a pot greenhouse operation. New applications for marijuana production in Deschutes County are met by “almost unanimous opposition by neighbors,” according to Commissioner Phil Henderson. Commissioner Patti Adair made opposition to marijuana a key part of her campaign for her seat.
Commissioners seem to have reached peak frustration. They ticked off a variety of justifications for opting out of marijuana during Wednesday’s commission meeting. DeBone was clearly disappointed that growers and opponents could not seem to find any common ground. Should he really be surprised? Is that a reason to require a new vote? Henderson noted legalization didn’t pass in rural Deschutes County in the 2014 vote. It’s an accurate point but it’s a countywide vote — not just a rural Deschutes County vote.
Adair mentioned reports that there is a glut of marijuana. If there is a glut of beer, the government doesn’t seek to forbid new breweries from opening. If there is a glut of pot, that’s good for consumers. It keeps prices low. It’s not the government’s job to pick and choose how much supply there should be of pot.
Let’s be very clear about what that possible vote in November 2020 would do. It won’t make pot in Deschutes County go away. The county’s 49-some growers will not go away. Medical marijuana production will not go away. The debate over how marijuana should be regulated in the county will not go away. The only thing it would end is new operations in the county outside of the cities.
County commissioners are supposed to represent the best interest of the entire county. On this issue, they don’t really have any reason to believe they are listening to anything more than a passionate minority. Rather than continuing to work to improve the county’s regulations, rather than continuing to work with the many different factions, they are shirking their responsibility and putting to a vote something voters decided just a few years ago.