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Focus group looks at state, county code related to marijuana use

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Deschutes County Illegal Marijuana Enforcement program is working to educate the public on what’s legal or illegal regarding the possession, use and cultivation of marijuana in Central Oregon.

A two-hours public focus group meeting was held Wednesday in Bend to gain insight into the community’s current level of awareness and knowledge of legal and illegal marijuana activity.

Volunteers answered questions on whether they witnessed illegal activity related to marijuana use, and what their biggest concerns are about the illegal marijuana market in the county.

After the question-and-answer period, volunteers of the focus group went around the room, reading different everyday scenarios marijuana users might face. They categorized whether if they believed it was legal, illegal or they were unsure.

Many participants found they did not know the legal amount of marijuana you can have in your home or in a public place in plant, concentrate or  liquid form.

Those in favor of recreational marijuana use stated they’ve had run-ins with the law and felt its unclear what is actually illegal versus a code violation in the county.

“We all need to decide, are we using our law enforcement to empower people to improve their lives, or are we using it to exclude them from a group?” said Justin Gottlieb, a supporter of legal marijuana. “I do believe many things are going on in a smoke-filled back room that are causing a great many more problems than just cannabis.”

Volunteers opposed to marijuana use said they witnessed illegal selling use of marijuana in public settings.

Those on both sides of the marijuana debate said they agree that minors should be able to easily get it, except for legitimate medical uses.

“That is one of the problems in our county: Marijuana for children is too easy to get,” said Tony Oliver. “They can get it in solids, which look like those wonderful raspberry gummies, or brownies. They use it to vape, they use it to smoke, and they use it at parties.”

Feedback from the meeting will be used to help create more tools and resources to better educate the public on what is legal or illegal, in regards to marijuana use.

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