Potential conflicts between state and federal law prompted plenty of discussion in Tigard on Tuesday as the city council explored how a planning commission might tackle medical marijuana dispensaries.
With Measure 53 headed to voters in November, which could legalize recreational marijuana use in Oregon, councilors agreed it was pertinent to write a provision into the Tigard Development Code that would allow medical dispensaries to operate within city limits.
Currently, any permits issued by the city must adhere to federal law — that means Tigard couldn’t authorize marijuana growing operations and dispensaries, despite what Oregon law says.
“You can’t have the federal government coming in and messing with state’s rights,” councilor Marc Woodard said. “You want to remove that conflicting item with federal oversight of state rights.”
Tigard extended a moratorium on medical dispensaries earlier this year, which gives the city until May 15, 2015 to set policies and procedures for regulation. More than 100 Oregon cities have enacted moratoriums of a similar nature.
The council had plenty more to consider outside of the development code — city associate planner John Floyd had a few proposals for the way Tigard could regulate a medical marijuana industry.
Prohibition was an option that councilors unanimously agreed would be the wrong way to go.
“Just because the federal government is operating 20 or 30 years behind doesn’t mean everyone else is,” councilor Jason Snider said. “Whether or not Oregonians vote to approve recreational marijuana, we still have to act.”
Floyd has been in touch with officials in cities such as Tualatin and Hillsboro, where councils and commissions are further in their discussions regarding medical marijuana dispensaries.
“One commonality emerging from every city I’m talking to is buffers — separation buffers from residential zones and public parks,” he said. “It seems a lot of communities want to put a separation from where people live and where they dispense marijuana.”
In Hillsboro, city officials are interpreting a state law that says dispensaries can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a school to mean that the same restriction applies to anywhere children may congregate. That means the same buffer would be applied to places such as parks, libraries and residential areas.
Tigard officials drafted a map for what that might look like in their city.
In Portland, Mayor Charlie Hales has already put together an internal advisory committee to explore how the city could handle marijuana sales should Oregon voters approve Meausre 53.
Tigard councilors grappled with questions of their own.
What would the hours of operation for a dispensary be? Where can the entrances be located? What about problems that usually accompany businesses that primarily take cash as payment?
“Anytime you have a cash business, it increases the risk for crime,” council president Marland Henderson said. “I’m not saying it’s going to increase crime, but it increases the potential.”
In the end, council members agreed that whatever rules they adopted later in the year would need to be clear and straightforward.
“People are looking for a standard,” Floyd said. “They’re looking for a bright line to follow in terms of regulation.”
The city will continue discussions — there isn’t yet a vote scheduled on the adoption of new ordinances or proposed changes to the development code. A planning commission workshop is scheduled for Aug. 4 with a community outreach and public commentary period beginning after that meeting.
— Eder Campuzano | Twitter: @edercampuzano
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