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Citizen's View: Residents deserve a chance to vote on allowing pot dispensaries in LO

I’d like to explain why I strongly support Ordinance 2689, which extends Lake Oswego’s ban on medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries and refers the issue to voters in November 2016.

The ordinance came before the City Council on Tuesday, and I voted for it.

I understand that Oregon voters statewide approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2014.  I respect that decision of the voters. But I believe it is an entirely different issue for Lake Oswego voters to decide whether there are going to be marijuana stores throughout our community, where they would be in everyday view of children going to school and participating in community activities.

While I would not characterize living in Lake Oswego as living in a bubble, it is no secret that people choose to live in Lake Oswego because this is a special place.  We are a community unlike many others in the metropolitan area.  We have our own local police department, which literally practices its motto, “No call too small.”  We have our own local fire department.  We have schools that are the envy of every community in Oregon and were recently rated first in the nation.

I believe people choose to live in Lake Oswego because our community is different than, say, our much bigger neighbor to the north, Portland.

Just as Lake Oswegans may drive to Portland for unique dining experiences they don’t find in Lake Oswego, or to shop for items they don’t find in Lake Oswego stores, I have no problem with people who want to buy marijuana by driving a few minutes to a store in Portland or elsewhere.

We know from the experience of community leaders in Washington and Colorado that, in many cases, citizens were surprised — and some outraged — when they saw marijuana stores opening in their communities.  Those citizens had favored the legalization of marijuana for adults, but they were not expecting marijuana stores all over their communities.

If I’m right about what I’m hearing, the voters of Lake Oswego will support our ordinance banning marijuana dispensaries throughout Lake Oswego.  If I’m wrong and the voters decide in November 2016 to approve marijuana stores in our community, I will respect the majority’s decision, of course.

But I believe that Lake Oswegans should have the right to vote, and fundamentally, that is what this ordinance is about. By approving this ordinance, we are scheduling a vote for the approval or disapproval of this measure next fall.

In a democracy, I can see nothing wrong with giving the voters of Lake Oswego an opportunity to cast their ballots on an issue as important as this.

Charles Collins is a resident of Lake Oswego and a member of the City Council.