After two packed hearings about proposed changes to how Okanogan County regulates marijuana operations, the county has received three formal suggestions for its new zoning code.

Up to now, marijuana has been treated like any other type of crop. The draft zoning code proposes requiring a special permit for any new marijuana operations, which includes conditions to protect neighboring properties from light, odor or noise.

In the new proposals, county attorneys suggest allowing existing marijuana businesses to continue, provided they comply with regulations governing dust, odors and noise. Operators not in compliance would have the opportunity to correct the violations and may have to obtain a conditional-use permit.

Changes proposed by the Washington Sungrowers Industry Association, a marijuana industry group, eliminate a distinction between marijuana and hemp. They also state that a conditional permit could not be withheld for operations having a license, a water right, and an appropriate buffer from neighbors.

The proposal from the Coalition for Property Rights points to different definitions in state law for marijuana and hemp. The group also suggests buffers, primarily to protect adjacent crops from cross-pollination. They note regulations set by the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board for background checks and for public health and safety.

All three proposals say that the marijuana grower must have a valid water right.

The Okanogan County planning commission continued its deliberations on the zoning code, which includes the proposed changes to marijuana operations, on Monday (April 25). Any recommendations they make will be incorporated into the next draft of the zoning code. That version will be reviewed by the county commissioners and the public.