By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Cities brace for advent of pot dispensaries

The city of Dundee approved a business license Monday for what could be Yamhill County’s first marijuana dispensary — unless Jim Galba of H2Organics gets there first with a dispensary in McMinnville.

The Dundee hopeful, The Human Collective IV, has yet to file an application with the Oregon Health Authority for state approval. A principal in the operation said it wanted to wait until it had a city business license in hand.

Galba has already filed his state application and paid the $4,000 state application fee. He was hoping to site a dispensary at his Bunn Village business, which is under county jurisdiction, but a one-year county moratorium on dispensary siting forced him to seek out a city location.

The city of McMinnville is being urged to enact a moratorium as well, now that the Legislature has sent the governor a bill legalizing such action for up to a year. In that event, Galba feels he should be entitled to reimbursement and damages.

Yamhill County is home to an estimated 1,000 holders of Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cards. That’s the clientèle the outlets will be competing for.

The Human Collective is a name associated with two medical marijuana outlets operating in Portland and one previously operating in Tigard, each carrying a sequential Roman numeral. The Dundee outlet would be the fourth using a variation of that name.

However, the businesses list different owners and officers in state assumed business name filings, making the connection unclear.

Movement is afoot in several of the county’s 10 cities to follow the county’s lead and adopt one-year moratoriums. Others have opted to stay out of the fray and take what comes.

Sarah Bennett, a medical marijuana advocate from Portland, appeared before the Dundee City Council last week to inform the council of local plans. She said The Human Collective IV was proposing to set up shop in a former mini-market at 1178 Highway 99W, at the highway’s 12th Street intersection.

The organization has not yet registered an assumed business name with the state, so the state has no roster of officers on file. Its city filing lists Benjamin Kirk as the owner, and Bennett as an “emergency contact,” along with John Kirk and Kelly McGuire.

City Administrator Rob Daykin said business licenses are routinely approved by the staff without council involvement, so the appearance was strictly voluntary on Bennett’s part. He said she received a courteous hearing.

“The city council does not have the same reaction as other city councils,” Daykin said. “Some members recognize this as a state-sanctioned medically related process, so they’re not inclined to take action against it.”

He went on to note, “We’ve had no citizen comment on this issue whatsoever.” That suggests the council is feeling no pressure to enact a moratorium.

Bennett said she realized no council appearance was necessary, but preferred to “create an open dialogue.” She said, “You have to start somewhere, and I think being open with them, and starting the conversation, is going to go a long way.”

She went on to say, “Patients need safe access to medical marijuana and this is going to be a benefit to our community, not a detriment.”

Bennett said she was encouraged by the attitude displayed by Dundee councilors.

“There are so many hurdles to this as it is,” she said. “Number one, there’s the issue of stigma. Then you have to find a landlord willing to lease, then work with cities or counties, and the OHA.

“There’s a lot of time and money involved just to start out. You have to be really passionate about it to go through the process.”

Bennett said she feels that kind of passion.

“I’ve been working to change this law and get this going since 2010,” she said. “I’ve helped hundreds if not thousands of patients with safe access.”

Most other cities around the county have proven warier and less welcoming so far. However, they may be on their own when it comes to enforcing whatever regulations they enact.

According to Karynn Fish of the Oregon Health Authority, the state will not be checking local ordinances before approving registration forms for new dispensaries.

“The law directs the Oregon Health Authority to approve applications from all who meet the program’s requirements,” she said. “It is up to the applicants to stay abreast of and comply with any local restrictions.”

Elsewhere around the county:

n The Amity City Council was slated to adopt an ordinance last Wednesday to add some local regulations to those already established by the state. But it waited to see how legislative maneuvers played out in Salem, according to City Administrator Larry Layton.

Based on comments expressed by individual councilors, Layton said he was confident the city would take advantage of the right to enact a one-year moratorium if the governor signs the new legislative measure into law.

Echoing city officials elsewhere, he went on to note, “We’ve not gotten much in the way of citizen comments at public meetings or at city hall.”

n In Willamina, the city council approved an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a park. With two parks downtown, that effectively eliminates them from the area of primary concern to the local chamber, which was outspoken in its opposition to dispensaries sited anywhere in town.

City Recorder Sue Hollis said the park stipulation seemed like a fair compromise. As it is, someone could apply to open a dispensary in the city’s industrial sector, she said.

In November, tribal members Larry Risteen and Ward Blanchard expressed interest in opening a dispensary in conjunction with Sally’s Hair Salon, located on Main Street. However, the ordinance would preclude that, and the city has not heard further from them.

n City Manager Scott Pingel said the Dayton council signed an ordinance March 3 prohibiting the siting of dispensaries for six months, predicated on looming legislative action. “That was designed to give us ample time, once the law is in place, to digest it and consider our options,” he said. 

For now, he said no one has approached the city about the siting of a dispensary. He said a state ban on siting within 1,000 feet of a school would eliminate anything on the west side of the river.

Pingel said the council would probably revisit the issue in May. “I don’t know yet how this will go,” he said.

n In Sheridan, City Manager Frank Sheridan said he hadn’t had anyone inquire so far. He said the school buffer requirement would protect the downtown core, but a dispensary could be sited in Sheridan’s industrial area.

Sheridan said he plans to bring the issue back before the council at 7 p.m. Monday to see if it is interested in taking advantage of the state’s new moratorium provision, assumed it is signed into law.

n Carlton already has discussion underway, but is not expected to take formal action until Monday, April 14. City Manager Chad Olsen said smaller cities like Carlton tend to avoid being trailblazers on issues like this, where the potential for costly litigation is high.

n In Yamhill, the city has gotten two inquiries about local pot shops, according to City Recorder Lori Gilmore. She said the council plans to discuss the issue when it meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday at city hall, 205 S. Maple St.

n In Newberg, the issue is still under discussion and likely to come before the council this month.

n Lafayette has decided to take no action.

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