Okeson appointed to the National Steering Committee

Becker County 
John Okeson

By Robert Williams


The Becker County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a county-wide cannabis-use ordinance which restricts the use of cannabis products to private property and residences Tuesday, Aug. 15.

The ordinance also restricts smoking and vaping of cannabis products in any location where the smoke or vapor could be inhaled by a minor.

“The intent, I believe here, would be to prohibit cannabis smoking in areas in the public, public forums,” said Becker County Attorney Brian McDonald. “Areas that could affect other people essentially, unless you are on your own private property.”

A Minnesota Sheriffs Association model ordinance was used to draft the county’s, in conjunction with the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, according to McDonald.

“I slightly tailored it to personalize it to Becker County,” he said.

The ordinance also distinguishes a difference between cannabis and cigarette usage at allowed outdoor smoking facilities at bars and restaurants.

“You can’t smoke it where alcohol is served and anywhere on the premises,” said Commissioner David Meyer. “If you are at a restaurant, you cannot smoke it outside where you could smoke cigarettes, because it’s considered a public place where the public could gather at.”

Meyer cited the portion of the ordinance that defines “a public place” or “a place of public accommodation” does not include the following: 

• A private residence, including the individual’s curtilage or yard;

• A private property, not generally accessible by the public, unless the individual is explicitly prohibited from consuming cannabis flower, cannabis products,lower-potency hemp edibles, or hemp-derived consumer products on the property by the owner of the property; or

• On the premises of an establishment or event licensed to permit on-site consumption.

A violation of this ordinance is a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $300.

Private establishments with a desire to allow cannabis-use on their property must apply for a license through the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management. Those permits are unavailable until 2025.

The board held a public hearing to discuss the ordinance but received no input.


Commissioner John Okeson was appointed to the National Association of Counties (NACo) Subcommittee Vice Chair of the Transportation Steering Committee (Highway/Highway Safety Subcommittee) by Mary Jo McGuire, NACo President.

“You were chosen because my goal is to build a talented and committed leadership team for NACo,” McGuire said via correspondence.

Former Lake Park mayor Keith Zachariason was appointed to the Recreational Advisory Committee (RAC) by board chair Barry Nelson in place of Abby Anderson from the Lake Park Betterment Association.

An at-large opening on the RAC continues to be advertised to the public.

Land Use,

Environmental Services

Environmental Services Administrator Steve Skoog presented two contract extensions for Department of Corrections crew leaders to continue working for the county.

Becker County has a need for workers at the County Recycling Facility to process recyclable commodities and is currently contracting with the state for workers to meet this need.

The state is providing a Department of Corrections (DOC) inmate work crew and crew leader to work at the Recycling Facility through Institution Community Work Crew Affordable House Building Program (ICWC).

The board approved an agreement to extend this relationship for an additional two years.

The Minnesota DOC also offered a two-year contract for a Sentence to Serve (STS) Crew Leader that can manage an inmate crew of up to 10 inmates. This person will work at the recycling facility to manage the ICWC Crew if that crew leader is not available (20 hours per week) and to maintain County Parks, Lake Accesses, and other projects for the Natural Resources Management.

The contract amount includes all crew leader wage costs and provides a passenger van with related costs to transport the Crew.

The funding will be paid for from:

a. Fund 18 (Solid Waste) – 50 percent

b. Fund 71 (Tax Forfeit) – 25 percent

c. Fund 15 (Parks & Rec) – 25 percent

The board also approved the purchase of an electric pallet jack to replace a manual pallet jack that is currently used at the hazardous waste facility. The quote of Big Joe (factory direct) $5,685 (plus sales tax) was approved.


The Sheriff’s Department will be using the annual Federal Equipment Grant to purchase a new Sea Born LX22 patrol boat to replace the current 2005 boat. Cost will be upwards of $90,000, according to Glander. A resolution was passed to include a match of $20,000 from the county, plus the sale of the 2005 boat to offset some of the cost. The remainder will be covered by the grant.

The board approved a grant fund purchase totaling $4,382.12 to add five detention center television enclosures at the jail. According to Sheriff Glander, the TVs will be added to mental health areas of the jail.

The department will be transitioning a 2023 Chevrolet Tahoe into a canine until at an additional cost of $7,000.11. The cost is within the department’s budget and was approved.