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Medical Marijuana: Nipped in the bud?

City to consider one-year ban on pot dispensaries

Following in the footsteps of cities like Wilsonville, Tigard and Sherwood, West Linn is set to consider a one-year moratorium on state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries being placed within city limits.

Resolution 1620, which will be considered by the city council during an April 14 meeting, would allow the city to place a one-year ban on medical marijuana from May 1 to May 1, 2015. Though the Oregon Legislature decriminalized medical marijuana sales in 2013, a bill passed at the end of the 2014 legislative session allows cities to impose a one-year moratorium if they are so inclined.

The city council directed staff to draft a resolution during its March 17 meeting. The resolution would prohibit both the sale of medical marijuana and the placement of any dispensaries within city limits.

State law requires that a moratorium must be formally adopted by May 1. The city’s proposed ordinance also includes an emergency clause to put the moratorium in effect immediately after its adoption.

In a memo to City Manager Chris Jordan, Assistant City Attorney Megan Thornton noted that “this ordinance is not a permanent solution, but it does provide the city with another year before zoning regulations and/or enforcement through the city’s business licensing procedures has to be considered and implemented.”

Indeed, during a work session Monday Council President Jody Carson said that regulatory procedures regarding potential medical marijuana facilities should be a focus moving forward, and that the moratorium should not be taken as an excuse to ignore the issue.

“We need to talk about the regulatory process,” Carson said. “As a medical professional, I believe a dispensary is no different from a pharmacy, and we allow pharmacies in this community last I checked.”

Mayor John Kovash added that in a recent discussion with a group of fellow mayors, the consensus was that “you don’t want to be the test case” for the state’s new medical marijuana laws.

Should the council adopt the one-year moratorium, the city will spend a portion of that time considering the feasibility of a dispensary based on current zoning codes. “There are only nine locations in the city where a dispensary could be located,” Thornton said. “So there are some legal questions there as well ... hopefully we’ll see how it goes in jurisdictions that haven’t adopted the moratorium.”

“The discussion was, ‘we’re going to do a moratorium,’” Carson said. “But that’s only half the story.”

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