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Smoke Signals 2/24-/2 

Around Oregon in weed—starting at home

Last month, the City of Bend began accepting applications for local land use approval for cannabis businesses. Continuing the tradition of making things as difficult as possible for cannabis business owners, the city's regulations required existing business owners to get in line early and beat would-be competitors to the clerk's office or risk losing their current business location.

The city requires that cannabis businesses be separated from one another by at least 1,000 feet, so losing a location would be no small setback in Bend. The city accepted 16 applications, all from existing medical marijuana businesses. The city has applications for 11 recreational stores, with eight existing medical marijuana dispensaries applying to convert to serve the recreational market. The city also has applications for three grow sites and a bakery.

The city's fees are approximately $1,000 for land use approval and another $600 for a city business license. The city's land use approval and a city business license are required before a business can obtain a license from the Oregon Liquor [and Cannabis] Control Commission.

Meanwhile, Deschutes County continues to struggle with legalized cannabis. In December, county commissioners voted to ban all cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas of the county. The move shocked local business owners, who noted the commissioners were well aware of existing cannabis grow businesses in the county. These businesses have been unable to start the process of obtaining an OL[C]CC license and thus continue to be ineligible to participate in the legal cannabis market.

County voters will vote on the ban in November, but the commissioners apparently consider the ban temporary and were using it to buy some time to work on regulations that they expect to implement this spring. The regulations are likely to include minimum lot sizes, property line setbacks, and outdoor lighting restrictions for cannabis grow businesses. The county is also considering restrictions that would effectively outlaw wholesale businesses.

With the prospects for county cannabis grow businesses uncertain and on hold, some Bend retailers are expressing concerns about supply. If county commissioners decide not to allow grow businesses or continue to delay implementation of regulations, legal cannabis may become more expensive in Central Oregon.

Also in Central Oregon, members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs voted in December to allow growing, processing, and sales of recreational cannabis. Despite the vote, cannabis remains illegal on the Warm Springs reservation under federal law.

In southern Oregon, an eight-year-old boy from Klamath Falls reportedly became ill after eating a cannabis-infused cookie. According to the boy's mother, he was on a family outing when he found the cookie still sealed in its packaging. The boy reported finding the cookie to his mother's boyfriend, who was target shooting. The boyfriend told the boy not to eat the cookie, but he ate it anyway.

The boy apparently consumed 50 mg of cannabis, which is considered a large dose. After the boy reported that he was vibrating all over and that everything looked like a cartoon, his mother took him to the hospital, where he was given intravenous fluids and monitored for about five hours before being sent home. Incidents such as these, though rare, have led the OLC[C]C to propose regulations that would restrict edible cannabis products to half the strength of those allowed in Washington and Colorado.

In Portland, the World Famous Cannabis Cafe is in danger of being shut down again. When it opened in 2009, the club was the first cafe in the United States for medical marijuana patients. The club closed temporarily in 2015 but reopened and now allows entry to anyone over 21. However, the Oregon Legislature amended the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act to prohibit smoking cannabis in public places and workplaces starting Jan. 1, 2016. The club is now facing citation from county officials for allowing cannabis smoking indoors. The club's owner, Madeline Martinez, says cannabis clubs should be exempted from the smoking ban along with smoke shops and cigar bars.

In Washington, D.C., Oregon's Democrats in Congress have introduced a bill that would allow the US Postal Service to deliver mail that includes advertisements for cannabis businesses. Current federal law prohibits the Postal Service from delivering such mail, and USPS officials have recently threatened not to deliver newspapers including such ads. Whether the USPS would make good on its threat, and whether this bill has any chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, are both unclear.

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