Pot dispensary rules weighed in Central Oregon

Cities look at business licensing and land use

By Leslie Pugmire Hole / The Bulletin

If you go

What: Redmond Planning Commission public hearing

Where: Council chambers, 777 S.W. Deschutes Ave.

When: 7 p.m. Monday

In what Redmond officials characterize as an attempt to make zoning and business licensing rules consistent, the city is proposing adding a section to its development code banning any land use that violates state or federal law.

But the underlying issue is regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries.

According to Redmond Mayor George Endicott, the city’s existing business license rules, which include text rejecting applications violating federal law, have been in place since 1989, long before Oregon’s legalization of medical marijuana dispensaries prompted other cities to tweak local codes to block the facilities.

“The issue isn’t whether or not you agree with people smoking pot,” Endicott said Wednesday. “Personally I could care less. The issue is more about this: Is it right for us to say it’s fine to violate federal law in our city? No, that’s not right.”

Oregon cities have been wrestling with what Sisters City Manager Andrew Gorayeb calls “the 800-pound gorilla in the room” since Oregon House Bill 3460 became law in 2013, creating a registry for medical marijuana dispensaries and thus effectively legalizing them. The registry law goes into effect Monday.

Numerous communities, including Sisters, Medford and Gresham, have addressed the issue by modifying their business license rules. Others have taken it a step further, approving outright bans on dispensaries and risking being overturned by state rulings.

Whether local municipalities have authority to disallow what the state has allowed is not addressed in HB 3460, but Senate Bill 1531, introduced in the current legislative session, allows cities and counties control over when, where and how dispensaries operate. The bill was approved by the Senate last week, but a House Judiciary Committee amended it this week to allow outright bans by local governments. SB 1531 is slated to go to the full House possibly as soon as this week.

Madras City Manager Gus Burril said Madras already has rules similar to Redmond’s regarding businesses needing to comply with federal law.

“It’s a hot topic at the state level so we’re monitoring any proposed changes and talking with League of Oregon Cities and Central Oregon Cities Organization to track developments,” he said. Both Burril and Sisters’ Gorayeb said there are no immediate plans to take any further action in their cities.

Prineville is in a wait-and-see mode, City Manager Steve Forrester said. There are no existing rules in business or land use permitting that would ban dispensaries, he said, and in fact one did open last year but closed on its own.

“We haven’t been hard-pressed with requests, but the City Council recognizes we need to move forward and develop a process,” he said. “Frankly we’re looking at what Redmond does, but if this drags on we’ll have to address the situation sooner rather than later.”

Endicott, past president of League of Oregon Cities, an organization that lobbied for allowing local bans, said when HB 3460 was passed there was an assumption of local control that proved incorrect.

“This is a very confusing time, very unsettling,” he said. “The federal government is in upheaval over this. I’d like things to settle down. I don’t want Redmond to be the guinea pig. Bend has said OK to dispensaries, and I think they’re at risk. If another administration comes along that doesn’t want them (dispensaries), it’s hard to go back.”

If approved by the Redmond Planning Commission, the proposed development code amendment would go the City Council for a vote.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, lpugmire@bendbulletin.com

Senate Bill 1531

Chief sponsors: Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland; Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena; and Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro

Synopsis: Allows local governments to adopt reasonable regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries, regulating the time, manner and place they exist. As passed by the Senate, the bill said cities could not ban the marijuana outlets. The House Judiciary Committee amended it this week to allow outright bans by local governments.

Status: Passed the Senate unanimously, slated to go to the full House

Online: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2014R1/Measures/Text/SB1531/A-Engrossed