Getting big reaction on pot farms and juveniles

Juveniles and marijuana, this time it’s not about underage use of a newly legalized substance, well maybe it is in some cases – but no, this is about our county commissioners and what they plan to do about the Juvenile Detention Center and the moratorium on marijuana farms.

Recent public comment meetings on these subjects brought a lot of discussion on both – the marijuana farm meetings have gone from standing room only to a change of venue to make room. The last Juvenile Detention Center meeting nearly overflowed the commissioners’ hearing room.

Editorial Gary MugWhether to allow more marijuana farms has its supporters and its opposition. If the commissioners intend to change zoning to allow more farms as long as certain criteria can be met, that’s one thing. We understand people do not want to live near pot farms because of the odor during certain months, the county could set zoning laws to make sure new farms were outside of heavily populated areas. At the very least, not next to door to someone’s house. Even though my home is in town, the nearest marijuana farm to where I live isn’t that far away as the crow flies. At the house we don’t smell a thing -that doesn’t mean it doesn’t smell though.

Zoning can be a tricky where crops and industry is concerned. We’ve all heard about the person who moves next to an orchard and then complains about the smell of the spray, the noise of the wind machines or cherry cannons. When the late Bob Davis was our publisher he talked about dairy farmers in California whose farms were bought to develop housing. He said the farmers bought new farms in another area, built McMansions and then the population started to edge its way toward their new farms. They didn’t like the smell, but the farmers thought it smelled like money.

What we’re trying to say is if the commissioners do zone or put conditions on where these farms can be located, then they need to stick to them. If someone moves next door to the farm they need to be aware of what it’s like to live next to one or don’t locate there. This is a big county and there ought to be room for marijuana production as well as people who don’t want to live next door to one of these farms. We hope the county finds a way to get rid of the moratorium and get on with taxing the farms – to the rest of us taxpayers, we hear they smell like money.

The next meeting on this subject will be Monday, April 11 at 6 p.m. in the Agri-Plex at the county fairgrounds.

The last Juvenile Detention Center meeting held March 28 had many people question why the county would even consider sending our juvenile offenders to Martin Hall, a commercial juvenile center at Medical Lake. Most of the comments were to try and understand the commissioners’ reasoning on the issue – no one seems to know what it will cost as the last time the commercial operation was looked at was 10 years ago.

However, there does seem to be some disagreement of what it would take to fix the problems at the current Juvenile Detention Center. Commissioner Sheilah Kennedy spoke of doors that opened the wrong way and fire sprinklers that needed to be updated. Former Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Jack Burchard said these two items, at least, had been taken care of years ago. Burchard, who stands firmly against moving our juveniles to Medical Lake has toured the facility. He said it was a great facility, that offered more services than our current one. However, you can’t get around the fact it is a three hour trip to move juveniles there and for family to visit their troubled kids.

There are a lot more questions like who will be in charge of watching the juveniles after they’ve been bussed back to attend hearings or what will local police departments do with them after they’ve been arrested. Will the county have to hire special juvenile officers to babysit while they wait their turn in court? Local PDs can’t hold on to arrested juveniles for days while waiting to ship them out of the county, it’s not legal. This just seems like an attempt by the commissioners to shift our responsibility – shift our juveniles to another county and shift watching over the juveniles when in the county to the sheriff’s office or to local police departments when they’ve been arrested. We have a facility, we either need to fix its shortcomings or build a new one. We have a qualified staff that works there why pay someone else to do the county’s job? Why shift the jobs of this qualified staff somewhere else? These questions and many others need to be answered.

I do give the commissioners kudos for holding these meetings at a time where more people are off work and can attend. The next meeting on the juvenile situation will have representatives from Martin Hall Juvenile Detention Center on hand to try and convince those opposed to sending our juveniles to Medical Lake why it is such a good idea. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12 at 6 p.m.