WENATCHEE – How do you regulate something you can’t measure?
That’s what’s stumping members of the Chelan County Planning Commission as they work toward a recommendation on a new set of rules to regulate the county’s commercial Washington marijuana farms and processors.
The planning commissioners told Chelan County commissioners at a workshop Wednesday that they had reached virtual agreement on a number of rules, including regulation of indoor, filtered Washington marijuana farms. Five of the nine planning commissioners were present.
Regulation for outdoor farms has been the biggest challenge.
“We’re wanting to do something that is as close as we could get to being fair to everyone in Chelan County – the businesses that have invested time and money in the cannabis industry and the people being impacted by the industry,” Aaron Young, planning commission chairman, said Friday.
Most of the county’s nine planning commission members would like outdoor marijuana farms in remote areas that have never been subject to complaints to continue operating as they always have, he said, as long as the commission can find an enforceable way to mitigate for the strong odor of mature pot plants during October harvest.
County officials have received many complaints about the farms’ seasonal smell. A 2,000-foot buffer around outdoor farms has already been suggested. Talk among commissioners has ranged from buffers to a ban on outdoor grows. The commission has not recommended a ban, he said.
“We can’t find a way to measure smell,” Young said. “This is unique to Chelan County because of our topography. Such a small percentage of land is privately owned in the first place, and it’s at the base of steep terrain.”
He added, “We’re still very much looking for solutions.”
Planning commissioners will continue their analysis and discussion at their next meeting March 22. That meeting will be a hearing, Young said, when public comment will also be accepted.
He estimated that his group will need that meeting and possibly one more to make a formal recommendation to county commissioners.
Once that recommendation is made, county commissioners may accept all or part of the recommendation, or reject it entirely and come up with their own rules.
The public will have a chance to comment before county commissioners have their final vote. No date for that has yet been set.
County officials hoped the new rules for Washington marijuana would have been in place by the end of last year. They now want them in place as soon as possible.
“We don’t want this to linger,” Commissioner Keith Goehner said Friday. “It’s important that there’s a sense of security for the growers and the neighbors – the people who have raised concerns. But we want to do it right, also.”
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