Mayor considers city's approach following a Portland man's effort to site a marijuana nursery

St. Helens Mayor Randy Peterson said he anticipates the St. Helens City Council will have little choice in 2014 but to address how the legalization of marijuana for medical and, possibly, recreational purposes will influence city planning.

“It’s almost kind of a wait-and-see, but in some senses, like zoning, I think we need to be ahead of the curve,” Peterson said. “I kind of anticipate that we’ll be dealing with it in the coming year.”

There is wide anticipation voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the November general election. Oregon Senate Judiciary Chairman Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, introduced draft legislation in November that would make it legal for adults 21 and older to recreationally use marijuana. It’s a move that has been heralded by pro-marijuana groups such as New Approach Oregon, which plans a voter signature campaign to place a legalization measure on the ballot if legislative placement does not occur.

Peterson said he expects the city’s actions on legalized marijuana to be shaped at the local and state levels.

“I think there’s going to be two things. One is, policy will be somewhat shaped by local opinion. The state will come out with some guidelines, too,” he said. “I think locally we’ll deal with some zoning issues — what’s an appropriate zone? What’s an appropriate area?”

David Mighell, of Portland, had applied for a conditional use permit to site a medical marijuana grow operation in St. Helens last summer, an action that drew appeals from police, fire and school officials. The grow site had a nondescript exterior and would have been located within 1,000 feet of Lewis and Clark Elementary School.

Though Oregon law prohibits siting medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, no such restriction exists for grow sites.

Mighell withdrew the application in October following a police inspection that resulted in a citation for Mighell’s alleged possession of plants not in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

A Columbia County grand jury subsequently handed down felony charges against Mighell for illegal possession and manufacture of a controlled substance. A case is still pending in Columbia County Circuit Court.

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