Question will be decided by voters in November 2016

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - The Wilsonville City Council voted Dec. 7 to have voters decide during the November 2016 election whether marijuana-related businesses ought to be allowed in the city. Such businesses will be banned at least until the vote.Wilsonville-based marijuana advocates’ hope for immediate access to local pot went up in a puff of smoke at the Wilsonville City Council’s Dec. 7 meeting, where the council voted 3-0 to approve an ordinance which will put a moratorium on the establishment of “marijuana-related businesses” — a designation which encompasses medical and recreational marijuana processers and vendors of all kinds — in the city until at least November 2016.

The ordinance will not be formally adopted until the council votes on it once more at an emergency meeting Jan. 2. That meeting will be necessary because although the council would like to preempt statewide issuance of licenses for recreational marijuana businesses starting Jan. 4, no further council meetings are scheduled for December.

If approved, the council’s ordinance will put the question of whether Wilsonville will allow the businesses to a public vote next November.

“Our responsibility, in my view, is to the citizens. And I think that it’s appropriate that we ask them what they want to do,” said Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp. “In my mind, the question about having establishments in the community is a different question than (Measure) 91 asked.”

The move is allowed by House Bill 3400, which gave greater authority to city governments in choosing how to implement the legalization of recreational marijuana by Measure 91. HB 3400 allows cities within a county that voted “no” on Measure 91 by a margin of between 45 and 55 percent to ban marijuana-related businesses by a public vote during the 2016 general election. Businesses are barred from establishing themselves in the interim.

At present, marijuana-related businesses are kept from the city by a 2014 ordinance which denies licenses to businesses which violate federal law. That ordinance was established specifically with the goal of keeping out pot businesses, and was reaffirmed by a unanimous council vote in April 2015.

Reconsidering that course of action appeared increasingly to be in the city’s interest after lawsuits were filed against the cities of Sandy and Cave Junction, who had been employing similar policies to keep marijuana businesses out. Opting out of allowing the businesses via HB 3400 would prevent Wilsonville from facing the same legal risks.

The council has been especially concerned about current regulations which prevent banks from accepting money from marijuana-related businesses, since federal law treats doing so as money laundering. That means that those businesses must deal exclusively in cash, which the council felt has the potential to incite crime.

“If the banking issue is addressed, then it would be easier for me to be enthusiastic about (allowing marijuana businesses),” said Councilor Charlotte Lehan at the Nov. 2 work session. “That’s where the crime is.”

Discussion on Nov. 2 also touched on taxation, with Interim City Attorney Barbara Jacobson noting that enacting a ban would preclude tax revenue. Councilor Julie Fitzgerald noted that the revenue would likely be so small as not to provide for additional law enforcement that might be necessary. Lehan said that the revenue could be significant, but noted that the industry’s cash-only status might make it difficult to determine how much any given business owed in taxes.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Eighteen-year Wilsonville resident Tim Smith testified at the council meeting that banning marijuana businesses from the city would be 'anti-business.'

The councilors’ comments at the Dec. 7 meeting, however, centered more on whether Wilsonville residents ought to decide what to do about marijuana-related businesses.

“My feeling is that there’s been so much discussion about this for so long, that I think it’s important for us to again reaffirm how the voters of this community feel by having another vote on this,” said Councilor Susie Stevens. “If (the public vote) was four or five years in the future, that would make me feel differently. But it really is a short amount of time. The year’s going to go by very quickly.”

Stevens’ remarks were in part a response to testimony given during the public hearing portion of the reading, when Wilsonville resident Tim Smith spoke against the ordinance.

Smith took issue with the ordinance on several fronts. He said that banning marijuana from Wilsonville would benefit a black market already present in the city, and added that doing so would be “anti-business.”

“By allowing this in Wilsonville, you’re not inviting people to say, ‘Hey, I’ll come down to Wilsonville and get stoned.’ It’s just not about that,” Smith said. “I want to use the money that I’ve saved for my entire life to open a business someday. I want to use it in Wilsonville, because that’s where I live. My friends are here.”

Smith also said that marijuana has helped him to cope with health issues, enabling him to continue to walk with the aid of crutches rather than forcing him to use a wheelchair. He said that he wouldn’t want deprive others of access to the drug, adding that he is familiar with some Wilsonville residents who are unable to travel 15 miles to the nearest retailer.

Smith added that the people of Oregon had voted their conscience on Measure 91, and indicated that marijuana and marijuana-related businesses ought to be allowed.

“The citizens of Oregon have already spoken. I just want you to be on the right side of history,” he said.

Knapp said that although a majority of Oregonians had voted in favor of Measure 91, 51 percent of Wilsonville residents had voted against the measure, with 49 percent in favor.

“I do not feel like a 49-51 split gives sufficient direction to the City Council to make a decision on behalf of the citizens,” Knapp said.

Council President Scott Starr said that he was in agreement with Stevens, and shared several of Knapp’s concerns as well.

“I think we should respect what the citizens of Wilsonville wanted for the first go-around, knowing that it’s pretty quick that we’ll have the second go-around,” Starr said. “They will determine the future, not the council deciding for them. It’s set up so that they can make that vote and determine their own future, so I’ll go ahead and let them do that come next November.”

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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