Legal Recreational Pot

The goal was to ensure legal marijuana businesses, like growers and sellers of legal recreational pot could operate in the City of Bend, Oregon for years to come. Substance founder — or “Person Responsible for the Facility” if you want to get technical — Jeremy Kwit has spent months in meetings as part of the City of Bend Marijuana Technical Advisory Committee.

The nine-member panel included a diverse representation of Bend’s cannabis industry, community activists and concerned citizens. The City of Bend Marijuana Committee crafted a set of very balanced planning code changes, municipal regulations, and an operating license program for the entire marijuana industry — producers (growers), processors (hash and edible makers), wholesalers, retail pot stores, analytical labs —  with the city limits.

Commercial marijuana cultivation will be licensed in Industrial Zones. The processing of marijuana concentrates into butane hash oil or CO2 vape pen cartridges can be dangerous because of flammable solvents or high pressure extraction machines involved. Such potentially dangerous processors will also have to locate in an Industrial Zone. Recreational pot shops and edible makers can operate in Commercial Zones, but not in Residential or Industrial Zones. The Planning Department approved the Marijuana Committee’s zoning suggestions and so did the City Council.

For cannabis retail establishments (which sounds way fancier than recreational pot shop, doesn’t it?) the Technical Advisory Committee proposed a 150 ft buffer from daycare facilities. The Marijuana Committee researched and considered park buffers, but ultimately did not feel a buffer was necessary from parks since Bend law enforcement hasn’t seen any increase in marijuana activity in parks, and our parks already have police coverage.

The Committee did not propose any buffers between retail facilities, falling in line with Measure 91 and 3400. Personally, Jeremy Kwit, along with many others, thinks buffers are unnecessary, and feels (based on empirical research and data) that open, honest dialogue with our youth about alcohol and drugs is the best mechanism to keep them safe and sober. It seemed rather hypocritical to keep an legal marijuana stores many blocks away from a park when alcohol is sold INSIDE our parks in Bend. In fact, the Bend Parks and Recreational District applied for and attained an OLCC license to sell alcohol at the Simpson Ice Pavilion — get drunk, place metal blades on your feet, zoom around ice, then drive kids home.

Every issue was discussed thoroughly and debated aggressively by the Bend Marijuana Committee. There was no unanimity, and Marijuana Committee’s internal votes about every detail were frequently 5:4 or 4:5, in nearly every instance. All members of the Marijuana Committee were concerned about youth access to alcohol, tobacco and other harmful drugs; they disagreed on the best method to educate and create a culture of trust and communication about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. 

The City Council reviewed and discussed the City of Bend Marijuana Technical Advisory Committee’s findings in a work session until 11pm one night, and then during a City Council meeting that lasted until 1am another night. The two members of the technical committee who claimed that retail density leads to increased youth access and drug abuse presented spurious alcohol and tobacco research to the Council, striking fear into the hearts of our elected officials.

When all was said and done, the City Council added a 150 ft park buffer and a 1000 ft buffer between individual cannabis retailers. It’s a pretty good set of regulations overall, although nobody was really pleased. Opt-outs and egregious over-regulation are just prohibition in disguise. Amendments to our Planning Code and a marijuana business Operations License ensures that the entire cannabis industry will legally operate in Bend for the long term.