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Benton County Development Code & Marijuana

Recreational marijuana operations consist of producers (i.e. growers), processors, wholesalers, and retailers.  All operators and operations are licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and are regulated by the Benton County Code. 

Recreational marijuana operations are either allowed outright, restricted, or prohibited in the county’s zones. Please review the current Recreational Marijuana Operations by Zone Table to see a concise and informative snapshot of the regulations in effect for these uses by zoning district.

The County approved an ordinance in 2015 that allowed the growing and processing of recreational marijuana in Resource and Industrial zones. After the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014, Benton County embarked on a two-part development code amendment process to determine where and how recreational marijuana businesses would be allowed to operate.  This process is detailed below in Step one and Step two.

Step one (completed) was to adopt code amendments allowing recreational marijuana operations as mandated by the state within select zones within the county, such as the Exclusive Farm Use, Forest Conservation and Industrial Zones. These regulations became effective on December 24, 2015.  The Recreational Marijuana Operations by Zone Matrix is based on these adopted regulations.  Before buying or leasing property we recommend calling our office at 541-766-6819 and asking for a planner to verify that the zoning will allow your proposed use. 

Step two (completed) was a public outreach process to gain community insight about what types and level of recreational marijuana operations should be allowed in the zones where they are currently prohibited. A listening tour was held throughout Benton County in March 2016 to gain general feedback about possible changes. During the tour, community-members expressed interest in being able to grow marijuana for the recreational market in the Rural Residential (RR) Zone, where production is currently prohibited. 

As a result, staff contacted all property owners in the RR Zone in September 2016 and asked for feedback on this topic. The conclusion of this outreach process was that the Board of County Commissioners directed planning staff not to move forward with any revisions to the code. This decision was made on December 6, 2016. 

A brief regulatory history of marijuana

Referendums, ballots, and bills related to various aspects of marijuana have occurred frequently over the last 20 years. Oregon legalized medical marijuana in November 1998 with the approval of Ballot Measure 67, which created the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. Administration of the medical marijuana program was given to the Oregon Department of Human Services. Regulatory control of medical marijuana was not granted to local governments until 2014.  Benton County chose not to regulate medical marijuana production, so this use was allowed unrestricted in any zone that also allows farm use.

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana possession, production, processing, and sale in 2014 through approval of Measure 91. Administration of the recreational marijuana program was given to Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Approximately 60% of the voters of Benton County approved Measure 91 during the general election. House Bill 3400A, adopted subsequent to Measure 91, allows local governments to adopt time, place, and manner regulations on marijuana operations, which makes marijuana the only crop in Oregon without full right-to-farm protections. The County did choose to create regulations for recreational marijuana and approved an ordinance in 2015 that allowed the growing (production) and processing of recreational marijuana in Resource and Industrial zones.

A brief regulatory history of hemp

Industrial hemp (hemp) was legalized at the federal level through the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, Section 10113. Hemp is considered an agricultural crop and it is currently allowed by the County in any zone that allows farm use, which includes all of the Residential zones. Unlike recreational and medical marijuana, hemp is protected by right-to-farm laws (i.e. cannot be subject to time, place and manner regulations) when grown in Resource zones; however, it can be prohibited and regulated in all non-Resource zones.

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