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Senate bill gives more local control over pot dispensaries


Local governments can impose a moratorium for a year

The recent passage of Senate Bill 1531 by the state Legislature is encouraging to many local communities as they seek more local control over whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in their jurisdictions.

The bill, which has yet to be signed by the governor, allows local governments to place a moratorium on dispensaries for up to a year, but they must submit a proposal to do so by May 1.

Ron Papsdorf, government relations director of the city of Gresham, said the issue is “on the radar screen” of the Gresham City Council, and said it likely will be discussed in the near future.

“The moratorium sunsets in one year and local interest in this issue hasn't gone away,” he said. “We believe in local decision-making around these issues and will have a lot of discussion going into the 2015 legislative session.”

Gresham doesn't have any dispensaries and any business license applications in the past have been turned down on the grounds that despite lack of enforcement, medical marijuana dispensaries still do not comply with federal law, he said.

Imposing a moratorium won't give the city any more power to limit dispensaries at this point, Papsdorf said, but the city is looking to the future and worries that local bans, including using federal law, will expire at the point when the moratoriums expire.

Troutdale Mayor David Daoust said his City Council will hold two public hearings on medical marijuana dispensaries in April as it considers the possibility of a moratorium, which he thinks the council is leaning toward.

Troutdale also has no dispensaries and has been denying applications on the same grounds as Gresham, that dispensaries violate the letter of federal law.

“I have been in numerous discussions with all the mayors in the Portland Metro area and we appreciate the passage of that Senate bill for the capabilities we all were looking for,” he said.

Wood Village city administrator Bill Peterson is facing the same dilemma.

“Our business license requires compliance with both state and federal law,” he said. “How do you get around federal law? We're talking with legal counsel about it.”

Todd Loggan, spokesman for the city of Damascus, said the town has no dispensaries, and the City Council has not discussed the issue at length, but the topic may come up in April meetings.

The incorporated community of Boring does have a dispensary, the Mt. Hood Wellness Clinic on Southeast Compton Road, but since Boring is an unicorporated area of Clackamas County, the community has no control over operations of the business.

Clackamas County has more control over the siting of medical marijuana dispensaries, said Steve Bates, chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organization, and whether it imposes a moratorium is up to the county commissioners. The Boring CPO supported the Senate bill.

Bates said although the CPO takes no position as to whether Boring should have dispensaries or not, it will have a work-study session on SB 1531 in the near future.

“The county legal staff is reviewing the bill and coming before the county commission as to what they need to do under Senate Bill 1531,” he said.