“The stench is unbelievable,” Wadena County Commission chairman Bill Stearns said of the scent of a field of marijuana. He was not speaking from experience, but from a discussion on the topic of marijuana at a recent National Association of Counties July 12 - 15 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The scent of a ripe field of marijuana is apparently comparable to fresh skunk spray, according to a New York Times article, which focused on Californian neighborhoods that sought to outlaw cannabis growing in their area, because of the unbearable smell.

While Stearns was able to attend numerous meetings at the convention, he said the one he went to regarding cannabis regulation was the most interesting. He said, while he first questioned going because it’s not legal in Minnesota, he soon realized that now is the time to be prepared for it before it hits the state.

One figure that was shared was that for every $1 that marijuana sales brings to Colorado, $4.50 is spent paying for the problems caused by overdosing and drug misuse.

Another interesting thing Stearns heard was these counties where it is legal are spending thousands of dollars on cash machines to count all the cash coming into the county. Those selling marijuana have to use cash to pay their taxes by federal law. It’s adding all new facets to the jobs county employees once handled.

Looking to stay ahead of the possible legalization, commissioners and county staff brought up the topic of marijuana and the possible ramifications that come with it should it be allowed to be grown and sold in Minnesota.

Stearns first spoke to Planning and Zoning administrator Deana Malone about the idea that if it is one day allowed here, the county should have plans in place like where it can be grown. He suggested Malone come up with appropriate zoning ordinance. Malone said she would start doing her research on the topic.

County Attorney Kyra Ladd brought up that it would make a good meeting to talk about marijuana, possibly even involving the community in a conversation on the topic of what comes with legalization. Commissioner Sheldon Monson agreed saying it would make a good combination board meeting and public meeting to discuss the possibility of marijuana legalization and all that goes with that.

In other actions, the board:

  • Accepted the donation of a garden in a box by the University of MInnesota Extension, to the Hope Center in Wadena.

  • Accepted a donation of $2,000 from First Congregational United Church of Christ-Lamson Family Trust for the school supply backpack program.

  • Approved the charter for the Trauma Informed Care Committee. The Trauma lnformed Care Committee is designed to help assess, develop, and implement trauma-informed practices, policies, and procedures in Wadena County. The vision of the committee is: Empower and sustain a trauma sensitive environment that includes intentional kindness, acceptance, accountability, trust and safety. Goals for the group include No. 1: Wadena County will develop and implement a trauma informed management plan. Goal area No. 2: Wadena County will develop and implement a trauma informed care communication plan.

  • The charter committee is made up of staff from human services, public health, community corrections, community based service provider, a county commissioner, county coordinator. Vacant seats include a community member, law enforcement member, and human resources member. The committee will meet every second Thursday of the month from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the upstairs conference room at Wadena County Human Services.

  • Approved the second quarterly allocation for the Wadena County Humane Society in the amount of $1,450.

  • Heard of plans to improve buildings at the Wadena Transfer Station. Solid Waste director Chris McConn presented on the plans and provided quotes. It was discovered that there was not several quotes gathered for each project, so McConn was asked to go back and advertise for more quotes so the board could compare pricing. Much of the work to be done was to improve the looks and comfort level for workers as well as the public looking to use the site.

  • Approved the position description liaison role guidance document. The document outlines what’s expected of county commissioners in their roles as liaisons with county staff. A DDA report dated Jan. 7, 2019 discussed the role and considered removing the role. Following a planning meeting in Feb. 2019, it was discovered that the desire was to keep the liaison role in place, but to clarify it. The communication/management, strategic planning committee reviewed and created a document that they approved of July 9, 2019. The essential function of the liaison role was defined as allowing commissioner liaisons and department heads to communicate to enhance department effectiveness and improve communication. Public Health director Cindy Pederson said commissioner interaction with staff was very important. Commissioner Jon Kangas said the guidelines were helpful for the new staff or commissioners like himself.