Sherwood to vote (again) on recreational marijuana
This story has been updated to correct the amount of revenue estimated by an initiative proponent.
Sherwood voters may have rejected recreational marijuana sales in the city by a double-digit margin last November, but a group of petitioners who want another vote appear to have enough signatures for a ballot initiative this year.
Toan Ngo and Sheri Ralston, who are in the marijuana industry and were involved in the petition effort, addressed the Sherwood City Council on Tuesday, July 11, to make their case. They argued that the city is missing out on an important revenue stream by not allowing marijuana to be sold for non-medical purposes.
Ralston estimated Sherwood could receive $70,000 to $120,000 in annual revenue from a marijuana retail store due to a 3 percent local tax the State of Oregon allows cities to impose. City voters approved that tax last year.
"It's huge numbers for the city, and you're losing those numbers every day that we're not open," said Ralston, a Sherwood resident who owns a marijuana store in nearby Newberg.
Ngo said medical marijuana sales have plummeted dramatically since recreational marijuana sales began in Oregon, as anyone 21 or older can buy marijuana for recreational use at a licensed retailer without needing a state medical marijuana card.
He also argued that the ban on recreational sales in Sherwood isn't an effective tool to curb marijuana use among city residents.
"When people don't have local access to marijuana, they don't just magically stop using it," Ngo said. "They will rely on a different supply chain. Preventing legal marijuana will only have the effect of drumming up sales for the illicit market."
While Ngo and Ralston told the council they could adopt the petition on the spot and change Sherwood's city code to allow recreational marijuana sales, a majority of councilors led by Mayor Krisanna Clark said they would not favor doing so.
"They've got enough signatures to do it. But the number in the last election was large enough against that I'm not willing to just circumvent 5,388 of my citizens and make a decision that is against what they voted for," Clark said, referring the number of "yes" votes on last November's measure banning recreational marijuana sales in Sherwood.
Clark, who voted against the recreational ban last year, added, "I am 100 percent OK putting it in front of (voters) and saying, 'Hey, you're going to miss out on the revenue. We've strengthened the parameters around how we can have the facility in the city of Sherwood. You've had petitioners talk to you, and maybe you didn't necessarily understand, or maybe you've rethought this issue…' But I think that should stay with voters."
Councilor Sean Garland and Council President Jennifer Harris both said they would favor changing the city code that night.
"I happen to know Toan personally … and he's going to lose his business in Sherwood because of this ban," Harris said. "And it's very frustrating to me, because I think if somebody wanted to ban cigarettes in Sherwood or we wanted to close down the bars, close down the liquor store, I think we would have an uproar, but we're not treating this the same way."
She added, "For me to tell a business that 'you're going to shut down because we don't like what you sell' just feels wrong to me."
The council did not vote Tuesday night, so the initiative petition was automatically accepted and the citizen-referred measure will be slated for the ballot this November. City code regulating marijuana sales will not change unless voters approve the measure.
Last November, Sherwood voters approved the ban on recreational marijuana sales with 56.4 percent in favor. Ralston said some of those "yes" voters petitioners contacted said they were confused by the wording of the question or unaware that there would have been restrictions on where marijuana retailers could open.
Under language in the initiative, if approved by voters, recreational marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers would be limited to general industrial areas, and they would need to be approved by Sherwood's community development director. There would also be a 1,000-foot buffer set around schools, parks, plazas, neighborhoods, and other recreational marijuana facilities and medical marijuana dispensaries.
The chief petitioner behind the initiative was Maren Harris, who is not related to Council President Harris.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated how much revenue Sheri Ralston believes Sherwood would receive from a local tax on recreational marijuana sales if the initiative passes. It would be $70,000 to $120,000 annually. The story has been corrected.