SISTERS — After months of planning and contentious meetings about allowing marijuana sales in their community, Sisters residents will have a chance to vote on the issue in November.
The Sisters City Council unanimously approved two separate ordinances Wednesday, allowing Sisters residents to vote on whether the city should allow medical and recreational marijuana storefronts and processing facilities within city limits. Sisters does not currently allow for medical or recreational marijuana sales or production. In 2014, Sisters voters rejected a measure that would have allowed the sale of medical marijuana in the city.
Brant Kucera, Sisters city manager, said Wednesday the vote was a step toward developing ballot measures that citizens will be able to vote on in November’s general election.
The City Council also approved sending a 3 percent tax on recreational marijuana — the maximum local governments can add under state law — to the voters.
While prior town hall meetings on the topic have drawn dozens of public comments — both against and in favor of recreational marijuana — the vote Wednesday was straightforward, with no public comments during the meeting.
“I think there are curious people, but I think everyone agrees that the fairest approach is a vote,” Kucera said.
Kucera said the city began looking at the possibility of allowing recreational marijuana within city limits about two years ago. Recreational marijuana was approved in Oregon when Measure 91 passed in November 2014. It was approved in Sisters by a narrow margin, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.
However, the city maintains license requirements prohibiting businesses that violate local, state or federal laws, similar to tactics used by Redmond and other municipalities to prohibit the sale of marijuana. The ordinance remains in place, and several attempts in the last four years to bring recreational marijuana businesses into the city have failed, according to Kucera.
Still, he pointed to votes on recreational marijuana in Prineville and La Pine as evidence that smaller cities can still have widespread support for the industry.
Kucera said Sisters has remained split on the issue over the last few years, with concerns about marijuana’s impact on livability and the community’s youth weighed against the economic benefits to the city from marijuana-related tax revenue.
“When you have public meetings, it definitely brings out passionate people on both sides,” Kucera said.
The details of the city’s approach to marijuana still need to be ironed out. Kucera said city staff plans to craft the actual language of the ballot measures this summer and will draft regulations that recreational marijuana businesses would follow this fall.
The measure will appear on the ballot for Sisters residents on Nov. 6.
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