A recommendation for how the city of Hillsboro should regulate medical marijuana dispensaries may wait until after the November election.
The Hillsboro City Council on Tuesday granted city planners and commissioners more time to devise recommendations for regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.
“There are a lot of unknowns that we are dealing with,” said Planning Commission President Katie Eyre. “That would mean putting forward one solid recommendation that both the planning commission feels good about and that the city feels good about. I don’t think we are at that point as a commission.”
The commission had previously delayed their decision to Aug. 27.
Where should dispensaries be located in the city limits?
Much of the questions in Tuesday’s work session surrounded how far the city should go in regulating dispensaries within the city limits. City planners asked whether the city should consider testing of dispensaries’ products and how the city would regulate dispensaries’ hours of operations.
Project manager Debbie Raber presented three scenarios that would restrict the number of dispensaries from opening in “proximity to concentrations of minors,” according to the staff report.
State law prevents dispensaries from opening within 1,000 feet of schools and other dispensaries. Under the state’s buffer scenario, a dispensary may open in about 50 “potential sites” in Hillsboro, mostly downtown and along the Tualatin Valley Highway.
But city planners are considering extending the buffer zones to cover “active” parks, public plazas such as Tom Hughes Plaza, libraries and residential areas. A second scenario, which would cover schools, parks and libraries, would allow for 35 potential locations.
In the most extensive scenario, the number of potential locations for a dispensary would be reduced to eight.
Raber noted that the number of dispensaries at these sites may be lower depending on whether landlords are willing to lease property to those opening dispensaries.
While councilors offered no direction on how restrictive the buffer zones should be, they agreed the city would leave testing of dispensaries’ products to the state. Councilors also agreed to allow dispensaries to operate seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
How close should it be to patient resource centers? How secure should the dispensaries be?
Raber asked the Council to consider whether it could a dispensary can be located next to a “patient resource center” or a “social club.”
When Raber asked the city attorney about regulating patient resource centers, she said they were concerned about regulating them independently. The city could, theoretically, regulate how close a dispensary is to a center, she said.
“For me, when you talk about medical marijuana, I think of a quasi-drugstore,” Willey said. Patients come in with medical marijuana cards and purchase what they need.
But Brian Roberts, vice president of the planning commission, said the commission heard concerns that a “social club” would “coexist” with a dispensary, meaning it would open alongside one.
“To me, the dispensaries are the real issue,” said Councilor Darell Lumaco. “If we allow the dispensaries, I’d almost rather allow the social clubs right next to them. At least we know then where people are using it.”
Four patient resource centers have existed in Hillsboro, according to the staff report.
City planners asked whether the city should require enhanced outdoor lighting, ban security bars on the outside of windows and ensure the off-street parking areas are visible to the public.
Councilor Megan Braze questioned whether the city should add security regulations to dispensaries when the city does not explicitly do so for other businesses.
Raber said the city already tries to encourage businesses to have additional outdoor lighting and an unobscured view; the question for the Council is whether the city should require dispensaries to do so in the planning process.
“It just seems like it would be unfair to require just one business and not have similar requirements of other businesses, if there’s a cost differential,” between bars outside of windows and inside, Braze said.
The commission will also examine the impact Iniative 53, a measure to legalize recreational marijuana heading to the November ballot, would have on the city’s zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries.
Mayor Jerry Willey agreed with the commission’s request for an extension, adding the Council wanted to make sure the city had proper set of recommendations before moving forward with a plan for dispensaries.
“If we have to go down this road, we go down it judiciously and cautiously,” he said.
No date has been set for the planning commission’s recommendation.
One supporter of dispensaries criticized the city for dragging its feet on the issue during Tuesday’s public meeting.
Chris Matthews, who wants to establish a dispensary for the Cascadian Care Group in Washington County, told the Council that their delays were hurting not just those interested in doing business in Hillsboro, but also patients seeking treatment.
“It seems like we are being treated as second-class citizens,” he testified
Willey said the city’s planning for medical marijuana dispensaries is a “much more complex objective than what was originally thought,” with the possibility of statewide marijuana legalization looming.
He acknowledged that the city has heard testimony from medical marijuana cardholders and supporters, but is taking time to make a decision.
“We listened,” Willey said. “We are sensitive to that, but at the same time, there are 95,000 people in our city that expect us to make the right decision here. Once you go forward, there’s no going back.”
— Edwin Rios
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