By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Some Keizer City Councilors feel the medical marijuana discussion is being dragged out too long.
Other councilors feel the city is rushing into decisions that don’t – or shouldn’t – need to be made yet.
For the second meeting in a row Monday, those wanting to move forward won on a 4-3 vote. That mirrored the vote on the topic during the Sept. 2 council meeting.
With new state laws regarding medical marijuana facilities going into effect earlier this year, cities and counties around Oregon have been grappling with what to do in terms of local regulations.
City Attorney Shannon Johnson has been fine tuning a city medical marijuana facility permit process, making changes based on feedback from councilors. Among other things, the ordinance calls for a 1,000 foot buffer from any publicly-owned property, a 1,500 buffer from any school, the permit having to be renewed annually and background checks being required.
Councilor Dennis Koho led the group wanting to move forward on the ordinance on Monday, much as he did two weeks ago. Councilor Jim Taylor once again urged councilors to wait until seeing the results of a recreational marijuana ballot being voted on in November. Cathy Clark again sided with Taylor, while Marlene Quinn sided with Koho.
“My position hasn’t changed on this, even after reading Measure 91 and seeing the things going before the legislature next spring,” Clark said. “My big concern is that we’re going to have to take another look at that. If the legislature takes action, are we going to be grandfathering people in? I don’t know. I’m not in a hurry.”
Taylor noted the city’s Medical Marijuana Task Force – chaired by Koho – did a good job in the spring.
“But there are too many questions of what’s going to happen,” Taylor said. “I just feel for us to do it now is irresponsible without answers to what’s going to happen. We ought to wait and see what happens.”
Koho said that shouldn’t be the case.
“I would prefer to have some local control,” Koho said. “Who knows how the campaign will go. I think we’re well advised to adopt expanded no-selling zones. With legislature changes, that could shrink some of the areas people can’t sell.”
Quinn agreed with Koho’s point.
“To have controls in place now, it will help us later when (the ballot) does pass,” she said. “We have control now if we do this.”
Egli saw both sides of the coin.
“Cathy has good points,” Egli said. “But I don’t feel like we’re barging ahead. We’ve worked on it for six months. That’s a long time to work on projects. I like having control of where we can have these or not. If we let the state control, some other places could have facilities. That’s why I will support this.”
Taylor proposed a compromise of waiting until after the election but before the legislature takes any action next year.
Johnson noted there are downsides with moving forward now.
“The downside is we would be the first out of the gate,” he said. “Other jurisdictions are making regulations. We won’t have the luxury of seeing what others are doing.”
Mayor Lore Christopher noted any future changes could simply be amendments to the ordinance.
“We don’t know what we don’t know often until after ordinances are enacted,” Christopher said. “How many times have we had to make subtle tweaks due to unintended consequences? I don’t think putting this off helps us get more information. It does preserve more of the home rule authority, which is what we’d want to do. This whole medical marijuana issue has been a completely messy policy.”
“It’s been a loaded question,” Taylor agreed.
Koho couldn’t resist adding his own quip.
“So on a smoky night, we should pass it,” he said.
The ordinance was approved by a 4-3 vote with Koho, Christopher, Egli and Quinn voting in favor. Clark, Taylor and Kim Freeman voted against it.
“If we have to do other tweaks, let’s do them together for the next time so we’re not passing marijuana amendments every two weeks,” Christopher said.