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Oregon Planning Commission votes in favor of permit for cannabis business

Public meeting held over Zoom

The Oregon Planning Commission voted 5-2 in favor of recommending the city council approve a special use permit for The Tree Pharm, a group that wants to open a cannabis craft grow and infusion business in the city.

A public hearing was held over Zoom on Tuesday evening with residents voicing their opinions on the topic both in person at city hall and over the internet.

Ed Messenger, one of the five area business people involved with The Tree Pharm, presented his business plan at the hearing. 

In November, the city council approved zoning for cannabis businesses by a 3-2 vote. The potential business would be located at 807 Pines Road in Oregon where the former Basler's Ace Hardware was once located.

A craft grow is a business licensed by the Department of Agriculture to cultivate, dry, cure, and package marijuana, to make it available to sell at a dispensary or use at a processing organization.

Messenger said he believes there will be no adverse impact to the area and that The Tree Pharm is an appropriate distance away from residential areas, schools and other businesses. There will be no signage at the facility and only employees and those doing deliveries will be allowed on the premises. 

“We’ve submitted a security plan to the state,” Messenger said. “We had a meeting on March 4 with former Police Chief Darin DeHaan and Chief Shawn Melville to discuss our plans and submitted our security plan for their review.”

Planning Commission members Rick Ryland and Jeff Hallock voted against recommending to approve the special use permit. Ryland has been publicly against cannabis in the city. 

“There’s really only one hope that I have,” Ryland said. “And that is if enough people call the city council and ask them to reconsider this. I’ve talked with the mayor and he said this could be repealed.”

Karly Spell serves on the commission as well and spoke in favor of recommending to approve the special use permit. 

“I think growing is not a problem,” Spell said. “They can supply money for the county and the city. I don’t see a problem here.”

John Guthrie is pastor at East Oregon Chapel and felt strongly against the city approving zoning for cannabis businesses in the first place. He brought up the fact that much of law enforcement was against allowing cannabis businesses when voting was done in November.

“The fact that the sheriff and police chief and the Ogle County Board are not in favor of these kinds of things, I guess I don’t understand why the planning commission or council would want to go ahead with this,” Guthrie said. 

Jennifer Albright was a member of the community who spoke in favor of the craft grow business being in town. She found comfort in the fact that four of five of The Tree Pharm’s representatives have run businesses in town in the past or currently. 

“I just don’t understand the pushback from others,” Albright said. “It’s already legalized. They want to start a business. It’s in their rights. Especially if they are respectable business people that have been in Oregon, Why wouldn’t they continue to support the community with this business?”

The city council will vote on approving the special use permit at a later meeting. The Tree Pharm is currently in the application process for a craft grow license with the state and will submit its application at the end of this week for approval sometime on or after July 1.

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