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Scappoose approves pot dispensary program

City Council adopts business license program to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries

COURTNEY VAUGHN - City Attorney Shelby Rihala (left) and Scappoose City Manager Michael Sykes give feedback to the Scappoose City Council Monday. The council adopted an ordinance to start allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in certain areas within city limits.

During the same week Columbia County imposed an additional moratorium on marijuana, Scappoose approved a program and regulations Monday, April 20, for medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

As of May 1, residents can get a business license from the city to operate a medical marijuana facility, if they can show approval from the state.

Last year, the Scappoose City Council adopted a moratorium on facilities, which expires May 1.

The city’s newly adopted conditions go a step further than the state’s rules for dispensaries. Under the ordinance, shops cannot have walk-up windows or drive-throughs, and must limit operating hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oils, extracts, resins and similar marijuana derivatives may not be produced on site.

Those conditions are in addition to state law, which already stipulates facilities can’t be located within 1,000 feet of schools or other marijuana dispensaries.

Earlier this year, the council was reticent to fully embrace dispensaries within city limits. Mayor Scott Burge indicated he hoped the program would go over quietly, and didn’t want the city to advertise availability to prospective dispensary applicants.

The council is likely to add additional land use restrictions in the future, like prohibiting facilities near parks.

“The business license provisions will allow the City to enforce things such as hours of operation and nuisance odors, which the state does not regulate,” a staff report states.

“We didn’t want to wait any longer on the business license portion of it. ... We don’t know what the state’s going to do, but we wanted to get something in place,” Norm Miller, Scappoose police chief, said. “Different cities were reviewed in how they do their business licenses and we believe this accomplishes what we need to accomplish right now.”

Despite the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and voters’ 2014 approval of marijuana being legalized for recreational use, some councilors acknowledged the conflict with federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a controlled substance.

“This council still has questions,” Councilor Jason Meshell said. “This is not a unanimous vote. There’s a lot of gray areas.” Meshell said he didn’t want to undermine state law, but wanted to reflect the legal conflict and ambiguity in the voting record.

Shelby Rihala, attorney for Scappoose, said the city is more likely to face a lawsuit if it doesn’t comply with the state’s marijuana laws, than if it resisted allowing dispensaries based on federal law.

Before voters approved marijuana for recreational use last fall, the city preemptively voted to tax the sale of all marijuana sold in city limits.

Sykes said the city is awaiting a clear determination from the state Legislature as to whether the city was legally allowed to place a tax on recreational marijuana.

The ordinance was passed as an emergency measure, which means it takes effect immediately. City staff say they will start accepting applications on May 1.