The Wasco County Board of Commissioners will hold two town halls to hear input on whether to opt out of any of the six marijuana businesses otherwise authorized by state law.

The first public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Dufur School. The second will take place on Monday, Sept. 21 at 5:30 at the Mosier Senior Center.

The hearing will only consider marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas and not within the city limits of The Dalles, Maupin, Mosier, Dufur, Shaniko or Antelope. It also cannot consider personal use, grows or possession of recreational or medical marijuana.

The Wasco County planning department has received about a dozen inquiries from landowners interested in the commercial growing of recreational marijuana.

In November 2014, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 91, legalizing recreational marijuana. The 2015 state legislature then enacted HB 3400, a comprehensive regulatory bill providing counties and cities with a way to opt out of marijuana businesses within 180 days of the effective date of law, which was June 30, 2015.

The six businesses are medical marijuana processing sites, medical dispensaries, recreational marijuana producers, recreational processors, recreational wholesalers and recreational retailers.

Since less than 55 percent of its citizens voted against the measure, if Wasco County enacts an ordinance to prohibit any or all marijuana businesses, it will be referred back to the voters at the November 2016 general election. But a temporary moratorium would go into effect until the election stopping the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Oregon Health Authority from issuing licenses for the prohibited marijuana businesses.

If a county or city opts out of any of the six marijuana business models, it will not receive any state tax revenue, which the OLCC estimates will be $10.7 million for the 2015-2017 biennium. That money will go to the common school fund, mental health alcoholism and drug services, state police, cities and counties for enforcement of the measure and the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

If Wasco County opts out of any of the categories, it will also miss out on an additional local sales tax, which can be up to 3 percent. The annual sales tax could exceed $20,000 in Wasco County.

The county must also decide whether it wants to amend its land use planning code to address zoning issues or whether to adopt reasonable time, place and manner regulations.

If counties do not opt out, commercial marijuana grows will be regulated like any other farm crop. Wasco County Commissioners have expressed their biggest concern with that is water rights and using residential water to grow marijuana for commercial purposes.

The public may also submit written comments to the commissioners by email at:kathyw@ co.wasoc.or.us, by mail to Wasco County, 511 Washington St., Suite 101, The Dalles, OR 97058 or by fax (541) 506-2566. For more information, call Wasco County Administrator Tyler Stone at (541) 506-2550 or Planning Director Angie Brewer at (541) 506-2566.

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