Pot outlets: Oregon panel OKs limited local rules

Of the Associated Press

SALEM — The Senate Judiciary Committee reached a compromise Thursday on a measure that would allow cities and counties to restrict some aspects of how medical marijuana dispensaries operate, but the bill does not go far enough for those that want the authority to ban the facilities altogether.

“What the bill will do is give clarity and certainty” to the state's dispensary laws, said Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene.

Prozanski said the bill, SB 1531, makes clear that local governments would have authority to regulate dispensaries in the same way they do other businesses in their communities, such as setting rules about hours, locations and certain other conditions of operation. The current law allowing medical pot facilities, which passed in the Legislature last year, would not have prohibited such regulations, he said, but SB 1531 makes that certain.

Several cities have banned the medical marijuana dispensaries or are considering doing so — some only temporarily while they craft policies for dealing with them.

As it's now written, the bill doesn't permit those bans. Lawmakers amended the bill's original draft to reach a compromise and get it through committee.

However, the bill fails to accomplish what the Association of Oregon Counties had hoped for when it requested the legislation, said Rob Bovett, a lawyer for the association and a former district attorney. The biggest problem is a conflict between state and federal law, Bovett said, and without allowing local governments to ban dispensaries, that conflict is not resolved.

Bovett said local governments can't be forced to license a business that is essentially a criminal enterprise under federal law, but state law does not let them prohibit the businesses either. Unless lawmakers add an exception into the law allowing the bans, the local governments will have to fight the state in court for that authority.

Bovett said he expects the rewritten bill to pass the Senate, but the association will continue to push the House to add language allowing cities and counties to prohibit medical pot dispensaries in their areas. If that language isn't added before the bill becomes law, he said, it could lead to costly litigation.

Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, voted to move the bill to the full Senate, but he said he hoped keeping the bill alive would allow for more discussion in the House.

“Something's better than nothing at this point in time,” Kruse said.


Reach reporter Chad Garland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/chadgarland

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