After almost three hours of listening to public testimonies, most of them in favor of medical marijuana dispensaries, the Washington County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday, April 22, to enact a one-year ban against the facilities.
The ban applies to the county’s unincorporated areas, including Aloha, Reedville, Bethany, Cedar Mill, Cedar Hills and Rock Creek. Cities including Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood have enacted their own temporary bans.
The moratorium will give the county time to decide on the parameters according to which the dispensaries would function, commissioners said. The ban came before the board in the form of a land-use ordinance that was supported by Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Garrett cited a series of safety concerns, including the fact that regulation enforcement is controlled at the state level, and that operating a dispensary requires limited background checks.
The board voted 4 to 1 for enacting the ban. Commissioner Dick Schouten was the only one who voted against the ban.
More than 80 residents showed up at the hearing, and 30 signed up to testify.
“Transactions are happening in unsafe ways,” said a Beaverton medical marijuana patient. “What we are asking you is to let us walk into a facility where we feel safe.”
People shared stories of how medical marijuana has helped them and their families cope with pain and diseases such as cancer.
One Aloha resident talked about growing up and seeing his grandmother fighting cancer. “I saw my grandfather go out on the street. I knew he was risking his freedom to buy it for her,” he said. But then he told commissioners to enact the ban so they would have more time to properly regulate the dispensaries.
Washington County Planning Commissioner Anthony Mills said he opposed the ban. He said he had visited a proposed dispensary in Aloha, which gave him confidence that the facilities could function safely. Last week, the planning commission voted 6 to 3 against the moratorium.
The testimonies got lively at times.
“This is not a problem of drugs, gentlemen. It’s a problem of mentality,” an Aloha resident told the board. “This was a social problem. It became a political problem. Now it’s a psychopathic problem. It’s dinosaurs fighting for air.”
Commissioner Roy Rogers said he was impressed by the testimonies but remains concerned about how the county will implement policies and procedures.
“I don’t think we’re irresponsible if we have different rules and regulations among cities and the county,” Schouten said. “I think it’s time to let this play out.”
Commissioner Greg Malinowski said the county needed time to coordinate with cities and prepare for when cannabis will be available for general use.
At one point, commissioners talked about enacting the ban for 6 months rather than a full year. Staff told them they couldn’t engross the ordinance to reflect that change because they were running against a May 1 state deadline.
So far, 104 cities across the state have enacted at least temporary bans against medical marijuana dispensaries.
— Simina Mistreanu
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