It has been way too long and so much has happened — much of it you won’t believe — but here is why life in the cannabis business is like no other. About two years ago, I bought a piece of land in my county that fit all the local regulations needed to build and start a cannabis retail store; there were no schools, youth activity centers or state parks within 1,000 feet. We met all the criteria, so we submitted our application to the county for a change-of-use to the land for marijuana retail.
The county accepted the application, but due to local opposition, it was assigned to a hearing. I introduced myself to the opposition one by one and explained how safe distribution of cannabis in our community will help meet their individual concerns. I was able to gain enough support on both sides that only one person opposed the change-of-use at the hearing. The hearings officer approved the change in a 60-page report.
The decision was then appealed by someone claiming a Spanish “school” was within 1,000 feet of the property. You would think if it didn’t exist at the time of the application submittal — and doesn’t meet the definition of school or youth activity center in the state of Oregon — it should be a nonissue. But in my county, the commissioners have decided to define youth activity centers on a case-by-case basis.
For example, a cannabis farm’s approval was overturned by the county commissioners earlier this year because the farm next door claimed children used their land to meet and ride horses on occasion, so it was defined by the county as a “youth activity center.” In my case, there are no kids present — only the possibility of kids when and if the “school” opens for business. So we went to the owner of the business and asked some questions to better understand how this “school” moved its location so abruptly.
After a conversation with the owner of the “school,” we discovered the owner of the property where it was located previously was going to increase their rent but offered an alternative location with more space where they could move with no increase in rent. The property owner, of course, was the same man who opposed my change-of-use. He used his tenant as a weapon of his anti-cannabis position. Yes, there are anti-cannabis community members out there, but when they use others for their own personal gain, a line is crossed.
Even knowing these facts, county commissioners are now debating two years’ worth of work, a 60-page approved hearing officer’s report and if a “school” can be defined as a youth activity center with no kids present or definitive open date. This is a clear-cut case of discrimination at the highest level in our county; any sane elected official would see the insanity. They are required to follow the law, not make it up as they go. The county commissioners could decide to overturn the approval based on an undefined description of a youth activity center that does not exist today. If overturned, this could give all anti-cannabis community members in my county the inspiration to claim the kids in their home playing Fortnite are proof that a “youth activity center” exists within 1,000 feet of any cannabis business.
Give me a break. Let’s hope the county commissioners vote based on the law, not their own personal agenda. The miracle is in the greens.