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Scappoose processes first pot dispensary

Sweet Relief medical marijuana dispensary proposed for retail location on Highway 30

COURTNEY VAUGHN - Gary Reynolds (second from left) owner of Sweet Relief medical marijuana dispensary, takes a break from prepping his new location in Scappoose. Pictured with Reynolds, left to right: Jay Bates, person responsible for the facility, Oscar Nelson and Eric Dann, Reynolds' dispensary partners.

Scappoose may be the first area in Columbia County to get a medical marijuana dispensary. The city confirmed last week that it is processing an application for a dispensary in the business corridor along Highway 30.

Gary Reynolds submitted his application for a dispensary business license with the city of Scappoose on May 1, the same day the city’s moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries expired.

Reynolds owns Sweet Relief, a marijuana dispensary in Astoria. He proposes to call the dispensary in Scappoose by the same name, and has already started renovating a retail shop wedged between Scappoose Liquor Store and a barber shop and smoke shop on the highway.

Scappoose City Planner Laurie Oliver said Reynolds’ application for a business license to operate a dispensary, which is what Scappoose requires, is being processed by the city and should be approved soon.

The Scappoose City Council voted April 20 to adopt its own set of rules and regulations governing the siting and operations of dispensaries in city limits. Scappoose requires proof of state approval before a business license for a dispensary can be approved.

Reynolds said he has obtained provisional approval from the state to operate the dispensary in its proposed location, but he requires a full state license before he can get approved to start serving patients in Scappoose.

“It was something we’d been working on for about six months,” Reynolds said of his and his business partners’ plans to operate in Scappoose. “We didn’t know if the city was going to allow it or what regulations they were going to put in. We just kind of progressed slowly and applied with the state.”

The state’s requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries include background checks of dispensary owners, security surveillance systems, buffer zones of 1,000 feet from schools and additional restrictions on the products themselves.

“The state asks for a lot,” Reynolds said. “It’s not like opening up a liquor store.”

Reynolds estimates he serves about 1,300 patients from his shop in Astoria each month. He’s hoping for the same turnout in Scappoose.

“We’ve done really [well] in Astoria,” Reynolds said. “We have zero problems. We’re enjoying what we’re doing. We enjoy helping people.”

Tax revenue remains foggy

Last year, Scappoose city councilors voted to implement a tax program on both medical and recreational marijuana. Neither was legal in the city yet, but Scappoose decided that if recreational marijuana was approved by voters in November, it wanted a share of the revenue.

As the city processes its first dispensary application and prepares for recreational marijuana use and sales as of July, it is unclear whether it can proceed with its plans to capture that revenue.

Shelby Rihala, the city’s attorney, advised the council on Monday, May 4, that the city may not legally be able to impose its own tax.

“The bill in the legislature right now has been amended to preempt cities from taxing not only recreational, but medical [marijuana],” Rihala said. “If the state does pass this bill, it puts the city in a difficult position of having to either refund the money, or keep it in a trust fund until it’s decided.”

Rihala said the League of Oregon Cities is advocating against the legislative efforts to prevent extra taxes.

Rihala advised councilors that it would be easier and less risky to hold off on taxing marijuana sales until the state makes a determination.