Council eyes ban on pot shops
Councilors indicated they were leaning toward an outright ban initially, at least until discrepancies between state and federal law are sorted out. While Oregon is in the process of legalizing pot sales for medicinal use, the federal government is holding the line, they noted.
It’s not clear whether cities can ban dispensaries, but McMinnville is just one of many giving some thought to that. The council decided to hold a public hearing on the issue Feb. 11 before making a final decision.
“Legislative Counsel opined that local governments are pre-empted from enacting laws that specifically target medical marijuana facilities,” Police Chief Ron Noble told the council in a memo. And he reiterated that at the meeting.
On the other hand, he said, “The League of Oregon Cities ... is of the opinion that local governments are not pre-empted from enacting laws that prohibit or restrict medical marijuana facilities.”
The conflict makes it difficult for cities to know how to proceed, he said.
Noble said many entrepreneurs have expressed interest in opening dispensaries, including at least one in McMinnville. He said cities are taking a variety of different tacks in response.
“Several cities are taking steps to keep medical marijuana dispensaries out of their jurisdictions, either by outright banning them or by requiring businesses to comply with all local, state and federal laws, thereby effectively banning them,” he wrote. Among them, he cited Medford, Hillsboro, Tualatin, Grants Pass and Gresham.
At the other end of the spectrum, Portland, Bend and Corvallis “are taking no action to discourage medical marijuana dispensaries,” Noble said. And he said Ashland is actually “taking action to clear the way.”
Noble is serving on a city task force also including City Manager Kent Taylor, City Attorney Candace Haines and Planning Director Doug Montgomery.
“To be clear,” he said in his memo, “staff is not in favor of having a medical marijuana dispensary located within our community, and believes that such a facility will negatively impact the health, safety and welfare of our community.”
State law already prohibits dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a primary or secondary school, Noble noted, and restricts them to commercial, industrial and agricultural zones. He said the task force is recommending the city also bar them from locating within 1,000 feet of the city’s library, aquatic center and community center.
Parks were not included on the list, Noble said, because all except a portion of Wortman Park lie in residential zones, where dispensaries are already prohibited.
Councilors, however, said they preferred the idea of banning dispensaries altogether, at least for the time being.
“This is a classic case of the cart before the horse,” said Councilor Kevin Jeffries.
The current administration says it won’t enforce federal marijuana laws, but that’s no guarantee the next administration will continue the same policy, he said, adding, “I’m really hesitant to do anything that would break federal law.”
Councilor Scott Hill agreed. He spoke in favor of a “temporary ban until there’s more clarification of the laws.”
Although the presentation was not billed as a public hearing, Mayor Rick Olson initially invited members of the audience to participate, saying he’d like to hear from them. The city staff and council objected, and Olson gave up on the idea when the council agreed to schedule a formal hearing with notice.
The hearing is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, at McMinnville Civic Hall, 200 N.E. Second St. The focus will be on a proposal for a temporary ban, based on the fact marijuana remains illegal under federal law.