Should a pot farm be allowed near schools?

Rad Nursery Products wants to use a vacant building for the grow

Rainier High School in Rainier, Oregon, June 10, 2016 (KOIN)
Rainier High School in Rainier, Oregon, June 10, 2016 (KOIN)

RAINIER, Ore. (KOIN) — For the last few years, a 24,000 square foot building near the Rainier High School athletic fields has been vacant. In previous years it was an indoor sports facility with batting cages and soccer fields.

Now, a local company has applied for the permits to use 10,000 square feet of the building for a marijuana grow.

That isn’t sitting well with concerned parent Tara Sorensen and Rainier School District Superintendent Michael Carter.

Sorensen said she’s worried about increased crime but mostly she’s worried about the kids.

Tara Sorensen is concerned about a proposed marijuana grow near Rainier High School, June 10, 2016 (KOIN)
Tara Sorensen is concerned about a proposed marijuana grow near Rainier High School, June 10, 2016 (KOIN)

“I think it sends the message it’s OK that (marijuana is) safe and it’s OK for them to use marijuana,” Sorensen told KOIN 6 News. “I mean it’s practically growing in their backyard. What can be harmful about that if it’s growing right here by their school?”

She said she learned about the plan at a school board meeting and acknowledges this is a perfectly legal business.

“The land owner was at the meetings trying to say that this is a good thing and they’ll give money to the schools,” she said. “It’s so much about the money and not about the kids.”

Superintendent Carter said, flatly, he would recommend against taking the money from the business for the district.

“I can’t speak for the school board,” Carter told KOIN 6 News. “Me, personally, my recommendation would be no, we don’t want anything to do with that money.”

“My recommendation would be no, we don’t want anything to do with that money.” — Superintendent Michael Carter

David Bush, the compliance and administration manager for the company — Rad Nursery Products LLC — said they are being diligent and following every letter of the law.

They want to be a good neighbor, he said, and there will be no signage on the building. The company will employ a security staff, have 60 security cameras and hire about 20 people in a 24/7 operation.

The ready products, Bush said, will be kept in a locked, safe room. They will deliver the product to their clients in armored vehicles and they do not intend to be a high profile company.

But they do intend to invest in the community — Bush said the company expects to do about $600,000 a month in business — in what he said is an ideal environment.

They don’t want a battle, he said. They just want a home.

There is no legal reason, in either the state or local ordinances, that would stop a legitimate marijuana grow operation from being within 1000 feet of a school or park, said Glen Higgins, the Planning and Flood Manager with the Land Development Services of Columbia County.

State of Oregon laws on marijuana licensing

Sorensen said the nearest thing to the building is the football field, “a little over 1200 feet was the measurements to the building,” she said.

Michael Carter, the superintendent of the Rainier School District, June 10, 2016 (KOIN)
Michael Carter, the superintendent of the Rainier School District, June 10, 2016 (KOIN)

Superintendent Carter said a county park where “kids come after school and play soccer” is less than 400 feet away.

The Columbia County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the matter July 11. Carter wants the commission to deny the permit.

“Let them find a different place that’s not, you know ,people always say ‘Not in my backyard,’ but really what I mean by my backyard is the kids’ backyard,” he said.

Tara Sorensen is trying to get as many people as she can to attend that public meeting.

“I don’t know if they can, but I want them to not allow it,” she said. “I want them to not let them go this close to the school.”

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