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Beaverton looks to extend pot dispensary ban


Public hearing on new ordinance scheduled for April 8 meeting

Beaverton will likely open its doors to medical marijuana dispensaries, but those with prescriptions for the drug may have to wait at least until the end of the year to get them filled within city limits.

In reexamining the city’s ordinance in the wake of new state law allowing municipalities to place a one-year moratorium on dispensaries, the City Council is leaning toward extending its current ban from September to Dec. 31. While reserving the option to enact a longer ban before a May 1 deadline, the council at its Tuesday night meeting directed city staff to craft a new ordinance extending the moratorium to December.

Councilors did not vote on the issue during Tuesday’s relatively brief work session on marijuana dispensaries, but three of five councilors — Marc San Soucie, Mark Fagin and Cate Arnold — supported extending the ban, while Councilors Betty Bode and Ian King favored extending the ban to May 1, 2015, which recently passed Senate Bill 1531 allows.

With many unknowns about how dispensaries would operate within the city — and the possibility that legalization of marijuana for recreational use could come up on a November ballot or in the 2015 Legislature — councilors want to leave as many zoning and regulatory options on the table as possible. Bode and King expressed the strongest interest in buying more time.

“I don’t want to suddenly be here in December saying we’ve got to wrap up a few things because something (in the law) has changed,” King said. “I don’t want to have to cut ourselves off too soon.”

Bode, a retired public health nurse who opposes allowing marijuana dispensaries in the city at any time, concurred.

“With all the other turning wheels, and (the possibility) that the whole state’s going to vote, it seems we’re giving ourselves the biggest breath by holding out until May 2015,” she said, mentioning the time it could take for the council and Planning Commission to iron out business and zoning regulations. “I would contend that May 2015 would be the wiser date to look at expanding drugs in our town, if that’s the will of our council.”

Arnold has gone on record about her positive experience taking Marinol — a pill form of medical marijuana — when she battled breast cancer several years ago. The councilor indicated she may decide to extend the moratorium beyond December based on any new information.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a long process on getting clarity for what we want to do,” she said, via speaker phone from another location.

Fagin was among the councilors noting the city could always lift the moratorium before whatever deadline it sets, while it wouldn’t be allowed to extend it after May 1.

“The (Dec. 31) date is something I could support,” Fagin said. “If we do have a clear path of what to do before then, let’s do it. If issues come up in November, that gives us time to consider them.”

The council instructed Bill Scheiderich, Beaverton’s assistant city attorney, to pursue a new ordinance with a Dec. 31 deadline. A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the next council meeting on Tuesday, April 8, and the council will vote at a subsequent meeting.