County bans pot, for now
The Yamhill County commissioners made good Thursday on the pledge to place a one-year moratorium on the siting of marijuana dispensaries in rural areas under their jurisdiction, effective immediately.
The county ordinance developed just weeks before the Oregon Health Authority is scheduled to begin accepting dispensary applications March 3.
Voting in favor were Commissioners Kathy George and Allen Springer. Commissioner Mary Stern missed the meeting due to a death in the family.
The new ordinance thwarts plans by leading local medical marijuana advocate Jim Galba from opening a dispensary in Bunn Village, where he operates H2Organics, as the site lies outside McMinnville city limits.
Galba told commissioners he understood the Legislature was moving to prohibit local bans. However, County Counsel Christian Boenisch, contacted afterward, told the News-Register the issue remains unsettled.
“That’s a discussion taking place across the state,” he said. “The law remains unsettled and may change further, which is one reason why the commissioners landed were they did.”
The Senate has passed a bill and sent it on to the House, where it was up for hearing in committee Thursday afternoon. It remains to be seen whether the bill goes on to earn House passage and a gubernatorial signature, however, and if so, in what form.
What’s more, it was not immediately clear whether the legislation would bar only outright bans, or also cover one-year moratoriums like the one the county is pursuing.
The commissioners opted for a temporary halt on the grounds that additional time is needed to review and consider the evolving legal framework, the potential need for changes in the county’s zoning ordinance and final state rules for dispensary regulation, all currently in flux.
In the ordinance, the county finds the Health Authority has thus far failed to provid adequate safeguards to regulate the operation of dispensaries, in that “the current regulatory program for dispensaries is underfunded.” It goes on to find that “the deficiencies in the current law present serious public safety concerns” and thus “endanger the health, peace and welfare of the citizens of Yamhill County.”