Portland’s top officials are engaged in a “relatively active discussion” about whether to impose a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and, if not, how to regulate the establishments, an aide to Mayor Charlie Hales said Wednesday.
Josh Alpert, a policy director for Hales, said the mayor and city commissioners face two key questions: Do they want to impose a temporary moratorium and what kind of regulations should medical marijuana retailers face?
Questions of whether and how to regulate medical marijuana retailers come after the state has already registered 21 facilities in Portland — far more than any other municipality in Oregon, according to the latest data from the Oregon Health Authority, which oversees the state dispensary program.
A group of Sellwood-Moreland neighbors met recently with representatives of Hales’ office to press for a moratorium and regulation.
“We are particularly worried because I think we figure that marijuana will be legalized … and all of these so-called medical marijuana dispensaries are going to move into being general retail outlets without any pretense of being medical,” said neighbor Elayne Janiak. “That is an even bigger concern for us.”
Geoff Sugerman, an owner of the dispensary and one of the architects of the law that created the dispensary registry, said he and Kelly Green, the other owner, have gone out of their way to be good neighbors. He said most of the dispensary’s clientele is from the neighborhood.
He added that the business closed last Sunday out of respect for the neighboring church. Not only was Sunday Easter, but it was 4/20, a holiday of sorts for marijuana advocates.
“We were not even open on what is arguably the biggest day of the year for people who are supporters of legal marijuana,” said Sugerman, who is a lobbyist. “We are doing everything we can to be good neighbors. There hasn’t been a whiff of any trouble or problems with anybody associated with our facility.”
Alpert said Hales supports regulating the establishments, but is “leaning away from the idea of a moratorium.”
“These are legal businesses and I think he is of the belief that we can get some regulations relatively quickly,” Alpert said.
He said the idea of a moratorium isn’t generating much support among city commissioners either.
“Everyone is interested in regulation,” Alpert said. “I don’t feel a big groundswell in the building for a moratorium.”
Under the state law, medical marijuana dispensaries must be 1,000 feet from each other and from schools. Other rules on hours and location are left to local governments to decide.
Alpert said officials are exploring the possibility of requiring dispensaries to notify prospective neighbors and restricting establishments from locating near preschools, churches and “community gathering spots.”
“Those are the things we want to take a look at,” he said.
If it adopts restrictions, the city then would have to grapple with how to deal with establishments already registered with the state.
“Are the existing stores grandfathered?” Alpert said. “We are going to have to wrestle with that.”
— Noelle Crombie
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