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City council extends ban on medical marijuana dispensaries

Given a second reading, the Woodburn City Council once again approved a temporary prohibition of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

The council voted March 24 to amend the ordinance passed in February, which put a 120-day ban on dispensaries. The amendment strengthened the original ordinance by referencing Senate Bill 1531, which was passed by the Oregon Legislature March 1. SB 1531 allows cities or counties to enact moratoriums on registered medical marijuana dispensaries until May 1, 2015, if the moratoriums are passed by May 1 of this year.

Although the city council approved the amendment by a 4-0 vote — with Councilor Eric Morris absent and Councilor Jim Cox abstaining — councilors concluded that the decision is not meant to be an outright ban on medical marijuana in Woodburn, but rather a chance to give the city a window of time in which to consider how city government should approach dispensaries before the city begins receiving applications.

“I am actually struggling with this vote,” said Councilor Lisa Ellsworth, who admitted that the city’s dense population of seniors could potentially benefit from well-regulated dispensaries.

Ellsworth recently lost both her parents to cancer and half-jokingly acknowledged that, “if marijuana would have alleviated the pain of my family, I would have been the first one baking a batch of brownies.”

Councilor Frank Lonergan agreed with Ellsworth, saying the city needed time to find out how best to approach medical marijuana dispensaries.

Part of the language of the amendment asks the planning commission to recommend appropriate zones and conditional permit requirements for the citing of marijuana dispensaries.

Cox abstained from voting again, mirroring his vote on the original ordinance passed in February. The city can adopt the amendment with one vote if passed unanimously. Otherwise, the city council must hold a second reading of the policy, and Cox chose to abstain instead of being the one vote in opposition to streamline the process.

“I feel it ought to be a statewide policy on these kinds of things,” he said at the February meeting. “I don’t think each city should make up its own rules (regarding this issue). Medical marijuana was approved by the voters.”



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