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Beaverton City Council mulls stricter recreational pot rules

Business is good, at least for one Beaverton marijuana shop


TIMES FILE PHOTO - The Beaverton City Council will soon weigh in on whether state rules go far enough to limit the sales of recreational marijuana.With the Oregon Liquor Control Commission ready to accept applications for its new recreational marijuana program in January, the Beaverton City Council will weigh whether state rules go far enough to limit the businesses.

The city approved five medical marijuana dispensaries during 2015. Most of those businesses opened and started limited recreational pot sales in October under an early-sales provision allowed by the Legislature.

Additional shops are operating or are in the planning stages in unincorporated neighboring areas that instead fall under Washington County’s jurisdiction, including Aloha, Raleigh Hills, West Slope and perhaps Cedar Mill.

Tyler Walker of Cannabis Nation is one of Beaverton’s pioneering marijuana entrepreneurs. He reported this week that business has been brisk at his family’s Blooming Deals storefront, with sales spiking in the two months since he has been allowed to sell marijuana for recreational use, expanding his customer base beyond just people who have an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card requiring a doctor’s prescription.

While strictly doing medical sales before October, about 100 to 150 people came through his doors in a typical day. Waker said customer traffic now reaches 400 to 500 people daily at the shop, which is located in a small strip mall a block north of the Walker Road Fred Meyer.

“It’s pretty crazy now,” he said.

While it won’t affect established businesses like Walker’s, city officials will consider whether to impose new restrictions beyond the OLCC’s proposals.

At a City Council work session in November, members talked about whether processing facilities should have additional safety requirements.

Agricultural activities, including marijuana growing operations, already are prohibited under city ordinances and there was no suggestion the city would loosen those rules.

The City Council also may consider whether retail outlets should be prohibited within 1,000 feet of each other and be relegated to specific commercial zones, which would curtail the number of shop locations in Beaverton.

Both of those restrictions are written into the rules regarding siting of medical marijuana dispensaries but would not necessarily be part of the new recreational rule book. Retail sales would be banned within 1,000 feet of schools and prohibited in residential zones under OLCC’s proposed rules, mirroring medical marijuana rules.

Council member Marc San Soucie, among others, said he was leery about having separate sets of rules for recreational and medical marijuana businesses.

While other members expressed interest in setting rules preventing marijuana retailers from clustering together, councilor Lacey Beaty said she didn’t think the voter-approved industry should be treated differently than businesses licensed to serve alcohol.

“I think most people are interested in buying their pot and going home and eating Cheetos,” said Beaty, who was not on the Council in 2014 when the city’s medical dispensary rules were written.

“I don’t see that as an issue,” Beaty said later about the potential of having neighboring marijuana retailers in appropriate locations. “You’re not going on a marijuana pub crawl, so to speak.”

On the flip side, veteran member Betty Bode still opposes any form of marijuana sales in Beaverton and wants at the very least for recreational marijuana to be treated the same as medicinal sales.

For Walker, whose shop currently offers both recreational and medicinal sales while OLCC finalizes rules, the industry is already starting to produce winners and losers.

His family not only runs Blooming Deals in Beaverton, they opened a Cannabis Nation retail shop in Seaside last summer and are in the final stages of opening a third store in Gresham. They are exploring the possibility of opening stores in Hawaii, Alaska and beyond, he added.

Walker’s business is “vertically integrated,” with a production facility that makes concentrated marijuana products and 11,000 square feet of growing space that his company is expanding by at least three-fold with indoor and greenhouse grow operations in the region to keep up with increasing demand, he said.

Controlling both production and sales, Walker said, allows his retail stores to offer better products and prices than competitors who rely on outside suppliers.

Walker said that, depending on the final rules, medical dispensaries may have a difficult time surviving if they are required to be separated from recreational marijuana shops.

He keeps prices for both sets of customers the same, but there is a significant cost for patients to obtain a medical program card that retail customers don’t share. Until recreational sales loosen later in 2016, he said, the benefit for holding an OMMP card is that medical patients can buy marijuana-infused edibles and other products that are still off-limits for recreational buyers.