Confusion reigns on pot dispensaries
Keeping up with rapidly changing Senate and House bills on medical marijuana is giving McMinnville City Attorney Candace Haines a headache.
McMinnville city councilors are poised to enact a one-year moratorium on the siting of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. They were scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal Feb. 11, but lack of a quorum forced them to reschedule it for Tuesday, Feb. 25.
In the meantime, things have been changing rapidly at the state level.
At this point, it’s not clear whether the state is going to allow cities and counties to ban dispensaries, even on a temporary basis, although some have already moved to do so, including Yamhill County, and others are pointed that direction, including McMinnville.
Many city councilors and county commissioners around the state, feeling caught between state law legalizing dispensaries and federal law criminalizing them, are frustrated with the dilemma they face. Adding to the frustration, the League of Oregon Cities and Association of Oregon Counties maintain local bans are legal, but the Legislative Counsel’s Office disagrees and the Legislature has yet to settle the issue.
The city and county associations introduced Senate Bill 1531 into the 2014 Legislature in hopes of providing their constituents with a stronger measure of local control over dispensaries, including the ability to ban them outright, Haines noted in a Thursday memo to the council. But she said:
“As this memo is being written, the bill has been a) slightly amended by the Senate (more on that below), b) passed by the Senate, and c) forwarded to the House, where it will be the subject of a hearing later today. To add to the interest, the House has added amendments to the bill as it was passed by the Senate.”
The problem is that the amendments are mutually contradictory, Haines said.
The Senate altered the bill to allow local jurisdictions to impose “reasonable restrictions,” but not ban dispensaries outright. But the House proposes to reinstate the ban in its version.
“You will recall that the Oregon Health Authority will begin taking applications for registration of medical marijuana facilities on March 3, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. If at all possible, between now and then, the Senate and the House will have to reconcile their differences and pass a bill they can both live with and the governor will need to sign it,” she said. “We are in hopes that, by the time of the council meeting on Feb. 25, 2014, we will have that passed bill in hand.”
To deal with all of the confusion, Haines has been writing new draft ordinances for Tuesday’s public hearing. As of Thursday, the council had three separate draft ordinances to consider, and a wry warning from Haines that all of them might be out of date by Tuesday.
Two of them provide for temporary bans. One would merely restrict location.
“Please understand that, when we provide a staff report at the meeting Tuesday, we might be presenting something quite different — or we might still not have a ‘final answer’ from Salem,” she said. “If needed, we will be tracking events related to SB 1531 right up to the time your meeting starts.”
In the meantime, she noted, city residents have been sending in letters with their thoughts on the subject, all of which will be presented in testimony on Tuesday.