Recreational marijuana OK’d in Polk

The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved regulations that would allow farmers to grow marijuana in exclusive farm use (light yellow), timber conservation (dark green) and farm/forest (light green) zones in the county.

DALLAS — The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance to allow production, process and sales of recreational marijuana.

The amendment, which designates the zones in which each type of activity can take place passed by a 2-1 vote Jan. 13 following a public hearing. Commissioner Mike Ainsworth voted “no.”

The board approved allowing marijuana production — growing and primary processing — in the exclusive farm use (EFU), farm/forestry (FF), farm/forestry overlay (FFO) and timber conservation (TC) zones.

Austin McGuigan, the county’s community development director, said House Bill 3400, the legislation regulating recreational marijuana and making changes to medical marijuana laws, specifically allows marijuana production on EFU lands and other zones in the county.

The bill gives local jurisdictions the discretion to decide the “time, place and manner.”

“We, at the staff level, took and identified every zone by similar uses,” McGuigan said. “The idea is we are looking at these land-use activities to make sure that these are compatible with uses that you would expect on similarly zoned properties.”

He said the Polk County Planning Commission thought growing marijuana was a compatible use to other activities taking place in the FF, FFO and TC zones.

“Our policies and our comprehensive plan really are to encourage both agriculture and forestry in those zones, both of those activities,” he said. “They found that, for those reasons, it was appropriate to identify all those primary (resource) zones for marijuana production.”

He added in looking at the issue in its totality, the Polk County Planning Commission took geography and available infrastructure in to account in deciding where processing, wholesaling and retail and medical sales should take place.

McGuigan said for sales, the planning commission believed retail and medical dispensaries should be allowed only in places where access to dispensaries located in urban areas would be difficult.

Therefore, the commission identified only the Northwest Polk County Community Commercial zone, near the unincorporated communities of Grand Ronde, Fort Hill and Valley Junction, for dispensaries and retail outlets.

For marijuana processing wholesaling activities, the commission selected light industrial zones and the Rickreall unincorporated community industrial zone.

Light industrial zones are located within city urban growth boundaries.

“(In the) urban growth boundary are more likely to have the types of infrastructure that you need to serve those uses,” he said.

Public testimony at Wednesday’s hearing was largely in favor of the proposed amendment and no one spoke against it, with one exception. A vocal opponent of the legalization of marijuana and the effort to implement HB 3400 within the county, Ainsworth voted with his convictions Wednesday.

He cited concerns about minors having more access to marijuana, banking issues for marijuana businesses, and that federal law still prohibits use of the drug.

“I strongly oppose it,” he said. “And I will always be opposed to it.”

Ainsworth’s view did not win the day, as commissioners Jennifer Wheeler and Craig Pope approved the amendment.

Pope did so while noting he shares many of Ainsworth’s concerns.

“But for all of you working in the industry, I applaud you for being thoughtful and intent on resolving those concerns,” Pope said. “Our function is to do the best job we can in applying intelligent time, place and manner provisions in county law that will protect everybody that we can.”

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