Cities across Oregon discussing temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries April 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
TROUTDALE, Ore. (The Tribune) – Troutdale City Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday that if approved, would allow the city to adopt a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.
In other words, the city is taking action to delay the opening of dispensaries in the city for one year, through May 1, 2015.
Troutdale’s interim attorney, Ed Trompke, said most cities are adopting this ordinance or something similar to it.
The city of Wood Village already has adopted the moratorium, and the cities of Gresham, Fairview and Damascus are in the final stages of taking similar action.
In March, medical marijuana dispensaries became legal in Oregon as a result of legislation adopted in 2013.
However, the 2013 law left many cities confused as to how they would regulate the dispensaries.
Effective March 19, the law allows city governments to adopt ordinances that impose reasonable regulations on the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries.
“The big question, since that bill, was whether further legislation is allowed or whether it is preempted by the statute,” Trompke said.
Trompke said reasonable regulation is defined to include reasonable hours, reasonable places and reasonable manner of regulation of dispensing medical marijuana.
He said the bill was modified many times, which would have allowed or prohibited preemption by cities, but the final version doesn’t say anything about preemption.
Many cities in East County, including Troutdale, have operated under the premise that to approve a business license, the business must comply with federal law.
Because of confusion with the law, Oregon lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1531, which allows cities to adopt the one-year moratorium.
The moratoriums must be enacted by May 1.
If approved, Trompke said it would give Troutdale and other cities about a year to figure out what kind of regulations the cities will impose on dispensaries.
During that time, setting up a business to distribute medical marijuana would not be allowed in Troutdale or any other city that approves the moratorium.
Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust said the moratorium does not affect people who hold medical marijuana cards.
“I know people in Troutale have cards and are growing in their homes to meet their needs,” he said.
He estimates there are about 17 medical marijuana growers in Troutdale.
Daoust said the marijuana dispensary issue is a “complex and divisive topic.”
“But I think we need this moratorium just to give us time,” he said.
Councilor Rich Allen said he supported having more time to institute regulations as well.
Before arriving at regulatory decisions, he wants to know how medical marijuana dispensaries may, if at all, affect traffic accidents or crime.
He also said, “I don’t know what future legislation is going to be, so I prefer time as well.”
The council will hear a second reading of the ordinance at the next Troutdale City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 22.
The Damascus City Council has held the first reading of a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, with the second reading and public comment scheduled for April 21.
The first reading passed 5-2, with opposition from councilors Randy Shannon and Andrew Jackman.
Shannon said state laws governing the siting of dispensaries are sufficient and that Mayor Steve Spinnett was worried that the town would be “inundated with dispensaries,” he said.
“That’s based on some hypothetical fear,” Shannon said, “and to take people’s property rights away that the state Legislature has given.”
Councilor Jackman also questioned the moratorium.
“I know these dispensaries are already heavily regulated by the state,” he said. “What would we do differently?”
If Damascus voters approve one of the three comprehensive development plans on the May ballot, that plan will be used in determining development code for dispensaries, said Senior Planner Erika Palmer. But if not, then the Clackamas County comprehensive plan will be referenced.
On Tuesday, April 8, the city of Wood Village adopted its one-year moratorium.
However, the council plans to play it by ear before jumping to change its city codes as there is the potential for legislative changes in the near future.
“Our City Council does not feel strongly about prohibiting entirely medical marijuana dispensaries,”said Wood Village City Administrator Bill Peterson. “In fact they are very split on that issue.”
Peterson said his concern is with the unsettled nature of the existing law: the relationship between the federal law, state law and local law and how that functions.
Depending on whether initiatives are placed on the November ballot or during the January legislative session, Peterson said, “It seems nonsensical to do all the work, if everything is essentially going to change in a matter of months.”
He said the council thought it would be best to adopt a moratorium.
While the moratorium expires May 1, 2015, Peterson said the council may be ready to lift the ban before that.
“As things settle statewide, our council is going to direct staff to move quickly to allow these (dispensaries) in our community,” he said.
The Gresham City Council on a 6-0 vote approved the first reading of its moratorium ordinance on April 8. The second reading is planned on April 15.
The moratorium would take effect immediately after the second reading of the ordinance and will be in effect until May 1, 2015.
“The council had a good discussion and indicated it plans to spend the next year talking to the public about the issue and gathering input for a longer-term approach,” said Robin Franzen Parker, the city’s public affairs director.
Fairview will vote Wednesday, April 16, on its ordinance to impose the moratorium. Mayor Mike Weatherby said he doesn’t expect opposition from the council.
The City Council recently met in executive session to discuss the possible legal risks of a moratorium.
Weatherby said the feeling of the council is that medical marijuana may be helpful for those who need it, but the city is less interested in a sprawl of dispensaries.
Fairview amended language to its city code in March so that all licensed businesses are required to be in compliance with the Federal Controlled Substance Act.
Weatherby emphasized the urgency of the city adopting the ordinance before May 1.
“We see this as an added set of armor,” the mayor said.
Beaverton consider extending moratorium
Beaverton-area residents looking to acquire medical marijuana close to home would be advised to find sources outside city limits, at least until early next year.
With a divided City Council looking to extend its current six-month moratorium on the facilities until Dec. 31, it’s not likely those seeking licenses to establish dispensaries would be in business before winter 2015.
Following a public hearing on the issue at its Tuesday night meeting, the council voted 3-2 in support of extending the dispensary moratorium from September to Dec. 31. The date is four months shorter than a recently enacted state law — permitting municipalities to ban dispensaries until May 1, 2015 — allows.
Councilors Mark Fagin, Cate Arnold and Marc San Soucie voted for the Dec. 31-based ordinance, while Councilors Betty Bode and Ian King, who favored extending the moratorium to May 2015, rejected the proposal.
The longer time period, Bode and King argued, would allow more flexibility for city staff, the Planning Commission and other entities to study and address questions regarding the facilities.
Fagin and Arnold, meanwhile, indicated from now through December provided plenty of time for the city to get its ducks in a row.
“Another alternative would be to actually spend the staff time, get the work done and meet the December date at the latest, if not earlier,” Arnold countered. “I have faith in our planning staff that they know what they’re talking about.”
Seven citizens, ranging from businesspeople looking to start up their own dispensaries to a concerned high school student, testified during the public hearing.
Questioning the practice of going in a direction just because other states — such as Colorado and Washington, where recreational pot was legalized — are, local student Garrison Lau expressed disappointment the council would favor Oregon law over a federal pot prohibition.
“If people like marijuana so much, they should get the FDA to approve it,” he said. “I’m pretty disappointed in you guys that you would go with this. I’m a high school student. I’ve heard my whole life that drugs were wrong … This is just not what I expected of you as leaders.”
Anthony Johnson, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Industry Association, stressed his organization simply wants to move medical marijuana from a black-market operation to a regulated, highly-monitored business. “A lengthy moratorium will only hurt the most vulnerable patients — the poorest and the sickest among us.”
The council will vote on the revised ordinance at its April 22 meeting.
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