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City regulations preclude "green light districts"

The Bend City Council has approved local regulations for cannabis businesses in the city. The regulations are effective immediately and are intended to supplement the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's rules for cannabis businesses statewide.

The Council included two significant restrictions on cannabis businesses in Bend that go beyond what was recommended by the advisory committee appointed by the Council. First, Bend cannabis businesses will now have to be more than 1,000 feet away from each other. This will not affect existing medical marijuana businesses that choose to sell recreational cannabis, but will represent yet another locational rule for new recreational cannabis businesses.

This additional restriction appears to be based on the theory that, if cannabis businesses are allowed to "cluster," bad things will happen. One advisory committee member—seemingly alone in this opinion—previously opined that cannabis businesses could create a "red light district." Recently, City Councilor Doug Knight suggested that a cluster of cannabis businesses would somehow make it easier for children to obtain cannabis.

Ironically, alcohol businesses including Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon Brewing, Bend Brewing Company, Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, Velvet, Cobalt, Summit Saloon, D&D Bar & Grill, JC's Bar & Grill, The Stihl Whiskey Bar, McMenamins Old St Francis School, Corey's Bar & Grill, Astro Lounge, Sidelines Sports Bar, Seven Restaurant & Nightclub, White Water Taphouse, M & J Tavern and Brother Jon's Alehouse (to name a few) have "clustered" in downtown Bend and have helped create a vibrant downtown without any discernable signs of a "red light district."

This restriction is particularly difficult to understand because the regulations also provide that no cannabis or cannabis product can be visible from the outside of the business. But the business-to-business buffer is not the only locational restriction. The different types of cannabis businesses are also restricted on the basis of a property's land use classification. For example, retail stores are not allowed in residential zones and production facilities are restricted to industrial zones.

Additionally, the Council agreed to impose a 250-foot buffer for businesses around parks, as insisted upon by the Bend Parks and Recreation District. Given that alcohol sales are allowed in Bend parks, this vote seems to cement the City and Parks District policy of favoring alcohol over cannabis.

Other notable restrictions imposed by the city's regulations include hours of operation (7 am to 10 pm), no drive through sales, and an operating license (in addition to the OLCC license).

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