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Scappoose remains divided on proposed marijuana ban

City council scheduled to vote Jan. 19 on ballot measure

COURTNEY VAUGHN - Scappoose city councilors listen to comments from John Harper of Sweet Relief medical marijuana dispensary in Astoria during a hearing on a proposed marijuana business ban in the city. Harper urged the council to re-think its consideration of the ballot measure.

Scappoose city councilors are scheduled to vote later this month on whether to refer a ban on marijuana businesses to voters in November.

The council placed the ordinance on first reading Monday, Jan. 4, during a regular meeting.

Echoing previous discussions about the issue, councilors were split on whether to devote resources to pursuing a citywide vote on the issue after county voters already approved Measure 91.

Councilor Barb Hayden said residents who approved of Measure 91 might not have realized that marijuana would be sold recreationally from medical dispensaries, or from other storefronts.

“Yes, the voters did pass this, but there were also voters who didn’t want this,” Hayden said. “There’s been a lot of changes and we’ve learned more about not only the recreational, but the medical. I feel the citizens should have another say so on whether or not they want to see recreational marijuana in the city of Scappoose.”

Hayden’s comments came after the council heard from one proponent and three opponents to the ballot measure. Those who urged the council not to approve an initiative were all affiliates of Sweet Relief medical marijuana dispensary in Scappoose.

“We’re controlling this and getting it off your streets,” Gary Reynolds, who operates a Sweet Relief dispensary in Astoria, told councilors. “The black market has slowed down tremendously in Astoria.”

Lisa Maloney was the lone voice in support of the ban.

“I think when people passed [Measure 91] they weren’t necessarily thinking, ‘Hey great, I get a pot shop in my city’,” Maloney told the council.

Maloney also serves on the Scappoose School District board of directors.

Others, like Councilors Joel Haugen and Rich Riffle, said residents could pursue a citizen’s initiative if they wanted to vote on the issue again, but the council should leave the issue alone.

If an initiative makes it on the November 2016 ballot and voters approve, the existing medical marijuana dispensary on Highway 30 in Scappoose would be allowed to continue doing business, but any future marijuana processing sites, retailers and producers would be prohibited within city limits.

City Attorney Shelby Rihala clarified a stipulation in state rules regarding the collection of sales tax, saying the city could collect its share of tax on marijuana sold within city limits if voters rejected the proposed ban. The council was told previously and the Spotlight reported that the city could not collect sales tax on marijuana if it attempted to refer a measure to voters.

COURTNEY VAUGHN - Scappoose City Councilors Barb Hayden and Jason Meshell share their views on a proposed ban on new marijuana businesses during a council meeting Monday, Jan. 4.

John Harper, who co-owns Sweet Relief marijuana dispensary in Astoria, estimates that location will yield about $300,000 in tax revenue to the state on an annual basis. Harper said the Scappoose location, which was prohibited from selling recreational marijuana until this month, would have higher tax revenue if the shop was selling to recreational clients as well.

The issue will come back for a full vote at the council’s next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.