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Board of Commissioners passes one year moratorium, amendment to SB 1531 allows such regulation

The Yamhill County Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance Feb. 20, issuing a temporary moratorium on the creation of marijuana dispensaries in the county. Although it’s uncertain if any other counties have passed similar bans, Yamhill County is certainly one of the first counties in Oregon to pass this legislation.

The moratorium is for one year and applies to the unincorporated areas of Yamhill County.

This ordinance appears to fly in the face of Senate Bill 1531, which passed in the Senate Feb. 18. The bill allows local governments to regulate marijuana dispensaries but not ban them entirely. However, at a Feb. 24 Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, an amendment to the bill was passed, which allows local governments to ban facilities. The bill is awaiting review by the House of Representatives.

“I hesitate to open this up as a county, not because I want to keep people who have medical needs for marijuana from getting it, but because I am concerned about lapses in the law,” said Commissioner Kathy George. “There are a lot of questions this law has left unanswered.”

George said she supported the temporary ordinance because it would allow the Legislature to work through amendments, but neither she nor Commissioner Allen Springer provided any further discussion before passing the ordinance. Commissioner Mary Stern was absent from the meeting due to a death in the family.

The Oregon Health Authority will begin accepting applications for dispensaries March 3, and issued a statement concerning local governments on its website.

“Oregon law (HB 3460) requires the Oregon Health Authority to develop and implement a process to register medical marijuana facilities, which must be located on property zoned for commercial, industrial or agriculture uses only. The issue of whether a local government believes a certain type of business should operate within one of these zones is a local government decision,” the statement read. “Whether a local government can legally prohibit the operation of a medical marijuana facility within its jurisdiction is a legal matter that may be resolved by the Legislature or the courts. The Oregon Health Authority does not have the authority or the capability to tell local governments what businesses they must allow within their jurisdictions.”

Yamhill County joins a handful of cities banning dispensaries, including Medford, Gresham, Hillsboro and Tigard.

The Newberg City Council had a temporary prohibition of marijuana facilities on its agenda for Feb. 18, but it was removed before the meeting took place.

“The council, by consensus, chose to not move forward with this item right now,” said Norma Alley, city recorder.  “That isn’t to say it won’t come up later.”

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