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Tigard poised to ease some marijuana restrictions

Hours likely to be extended, as city evaluates its overall approach.

This story has been updated from its original version.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The hours for retail sales of marijuana in Tigard could be extended starting next month.Hours at The Herbary, Tigard's only existing marijuana retailer, could be extended as the Tigard City Council indicated last week it is prepared to adopt an ordinance allowing such businesses to open earlier in the morning and close later at night.

Oregon state regulations recently changed to reduce the minimum required distance between marijuana dispensaries and stores from 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet. The state also allows marijuana businesses to be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tigard currently restricts hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Shannon Bernard, who owns The Herbary, testified before the council during a public hearing last Tuesday. She said extended hours in the morning would be particularly helpful to her business.

“If you guys would like to extend our hours in the morning, I would love that, because we do actually have people waiting outside of the dispensary for us to open at 10 a.m.,” Bernard said. “It would actually be kind of nice to actually not have people waiting outside of the dispensary. So obviously, the need is there for the citizens, and we're not able to do that.”

On a 4-1 motion, with only Councilor Marland Henderson opposed, the council voted to direct city staff to come back on Nov. 1 with an ordinance that would adopt the 7-to-10 hours and the 1,000-foot rule into Tigard's city code. Henderson said he is fine with extending the morning hours but has reservations about allowing marijuana businesses to operate later into the night.

Last week's discussion and vote came as part of a larger conversation about how the city of Tigard treats marijuana businesses.

After Oregon voters passed a measure legalizing marijuana for recreational use in 2014, the Tigard City Council voted in April 2015 to restrict marijuana retail shops to the Highway 99W corridor. The city's regulations also prohibit a shop from opening within 500 feet of a public park or 1,000 feet of a school.

Bernard acknowledged she has a “vested interest” in limiting the number of marijuana businesses in Tigard. But she encouraged city councilors to keep the parks buffer in place, as well as to require safety improvements like a dedicated parking lot and enhanced lighting for any new shops that open.

“You need to keep it away from the parks,” Bernard said. “It's going to create thousands of cars of traffic a day. I want my kids to be able to have a place to go play and not have to worry about that.”

John Widmer, who co-owns the Portland marijuana store Kaleafa Cannabis Co. and was planning a location on Southwest Main Street in Tigard before the council voted last year to restrict marijuana businesses to Highway 99W, argued that there is no data to suggest the parks buffer serves a purpose.

“I can tell you Portland doesn't have a buffer,” Widmer said.

His brother, Bill Widmer, also testified, advising the council to consider the difference between an actively used park and greenspace that is not used for recreation. Mayor John L. Cook suggested that the City Council ask the Tigard Planning Commission to look into that question and others, unless the council has already made up its mind.

“I'm open to doing some tweaks today, but I think if we get too far out there, I would be more comfortable sending it back to Planning Commission and letting them vet the whole process again,” Cook said, adding, “All we noticed (on the agenda) tonight was we were going to talk about things. It wasn't really noticed from the standpoint of, 'Here's what we think we're going to do. We're going to change parks from 500 feet to 100 feet, or we're going to take Hall Boulevard now and not just 99W.' So to me, it's a different notice aspect of what people might want to come and talk about.”

Other members of the council agreed.

“I think we should at least … direct them to study downtown again. I know they'd studied it before,” said Council President Jason Snider, adding that he wants planning commissioners to gather input from the community and groups like the Tigard Downtown Alliance as well.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Oregon is one of four states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, although several more states, including neighboring California and Nevada, could join that club if voters assent next month.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the number of states with legal recreational marijuana. There are four: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. The story has been updated.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
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