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City Council considers repealing early sales ban

Recreational marijuana would be allowed for sale out of medical dispensaries

There may still be hope for Newberg medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana through an “early sales” program, before the state starts issuing licenses to recreational stores.

Early sales came about through legislation passed last summer which allowed some recreational marijuana products to be sold through medical dispensaries, with the goal of following through on Measure 91’s intent. As it stood then, recreational marijuana was legal (as of July 1, 2015) but there was no legal way to purchase it as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has indicated it will have recreational pot facilities operational “by the end of 2016.”PMG FILE - Although other area cities have allowed medical dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana, Newberg banned the practice in the fall. The City Council will reconsider that move at its next meeting.

So the legislation authorized recreational sales through medical dispensaries beginning Oct. 1, 2015, to fill that gap, but the Newberg City Council banned early sales shortly before they would have begun.

In general, the council cited a lack of information and guidance from the OLCC on how to deal with recreational marijuana.

“The state has not got anything concrete for us to work with,” Councilor Mike Corey said at the fall council meeting. “The state hasn’t put enough together on the sale of recreational marijuana.”

Mayor Bob Andrews concurred, explaining that “It’s not saying no to marijuana, it’s just these early sales: saying we’re not quite ready for it.”

The matter came up again April 18 as local medical dispensary owner Sheri Ralston queried the council on whether it would repeal the ban given updated guidance from the OLCC.

“The reason we collectively banned it was because there were no OLCC rules, and those rules have been developed and have been running smoothly for six months,” Councilor Denise Bacon told the council.

She asked to have the community development department bring back a council item removing the ban on early recreational pot sales, which would open up sales through medical dispensaries until the OLCC is ready to license recreational stores near the end of the year.

Ralston told the council in an email that she is turning away “dozens of customers every day that we cannot service.”

“This is one of our local business people,” Bacon noted. “She’s invested a lot of money in this community.”

Ralston said in her email that she had paid $2,800 to the city in taxes for medical marijuana during the first quarter of 2016.

The city has a 10 percent tax on recreational marijuana, meaning opening up early sales would generate local tax revenue on top of the 25 percent tax that recreational facilities pay to the state.

“I like it,” Councilor Scott Essin said of the taxation possibility.

One letter opposing the repeal was received from a business owner neighboring Canna Bros. dispensary. The concern was with an increase in traffic creating parking problems in the already tight parking lot, rather than with the principle of selling recreational marijuana.

The council voted 6-1 to bring back a council item repealing the ban on early sales. That item is on the agenda for the Monday night council meeting.

The OLCC is now accepting recreational license applications and as of Monday there were two Yamhill County pot retailer applications under review, two wholesaler applications, four processor applications and 22 producer applications.