Allie Colosky
The Bulletin

SISTERS — Community members gathered Wednesday at City Hall to discuss proposed regulations for how, when and where marijuana businesses could operate in the city.

The ensuing discussion was tense, and split the crowd of about 70 people evenly between those who supported recreational marijuana sales and those who were against it. Sisters voters rejected a measure that would have allowed the sale of medical marijuana in the city in 2014.

“The (2014) vote was pretty even, and what we heard tonight was split pretty evenly down both sides, so maybe that does point to a vote being able to decide this once and for all,” said Brant Kucera, city manager.

While many favored regulating recreational marijuana, those opposed to the idea focused on the affect that it would have on the community’s youth.

“My concern is focused mostly on the more you make something available and the more kids see something, the more they want to try it,” said Jeremy Davis, 41, of Sisters. “Kids are seeking it out for the high, not the medicinal purposes.”

Davis moved to Sisters a month ago, and while he is against allowing a dispensary in town, he would like to see the issue go to vote, he said.

“I am always for the will of the people,” Davis said. “Even if it was voted in favor of, there’s a lot of regulations we could impose. It wouldn’t just be free reign out there.”

It was the city’s third workshop in a series meant to solicit public feedback on potential changes to the city’s business license and other regulations that could allow medical or recreational marijuana sales. All marijuana sales are currently prohibited in Sisters by the city’s business license requirements.

“We are going to do our due diligence, and we are going to take our time with it,” said Mayor Chuck Ryan. “As far as a vote, we are hearing people loud and clear.”

The city hosted its first workshop to explore regulated marijuana commerce in January, and the City Council has since toured businesses in Bend that produce or sell marijuana.

In addition to changing its business license and adopting guidelines for how, when and where pot businesses could operate, the city would have to address changes in its development code to allow cannabis-related activities. The city could also propose a 3 percent tax on marijuana sales that voters would decide on in a general election.

Erin Herburger, 34, of Sisters, addressed the economic impact that a recreational marijuana business would have.

“The dollar circulates seven times in a community when it is spent there, and if our residents are driving to Bend, those are our dollars circulating in Bend,” she said. “If it is spent here, that dollar could later go to the Stitching Post and then The Open Door. As a business owner in this town, it’s important to me.”

Herburger has lived in Sisters for 30 years and said that there’s a lot of confusion about the cannabis industry and hopes that people will receive more education through these town hall-style discussions.

“There’s a lot of confusion,” she said. “Not knowing the difference between medical and recreational dispensaries or not knowing that there’s a whole tracking system from seed to sale. People think it’s this big unregulated industry. I’m hoping to hear people’s legitimate concerns — not their fear-based concerns — and address those concerns.”

The next community workshop is scheduled for March 14 at City Hall.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, acolosky@bendbulletin.com

19740251