By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The Keizer City Council stuck to its guns when a local business owner requested the city repeal distancing requirements on marijuana shops.
The issue of how to regulate marijuana shops ended up on the council agenda again at its meeting Monday, Aug. 15, as the owner of Keizer Nursery on River Road made her case for converting her space into a pot shop.
“The retail nursery industry is dwindling and affecting my ability to remain in business,” said Cyndi Michael, who has operated Keizer nursery for several years. “I applied for my state license back in March, but in July (Oregon Health Authority) licensed a dispensary 700 feet from my business.”
Current Keizer rules regulating marijuana shops, regardless of whether they sell medical or recreational marijuana, require a separation of 1,000 feet from any other marijuana seller and 1,500 feet from any school.
Michael urged the council to drop the distancing requirement and bring the Keizer rules into line with the state’s guidelines. Under state rules, a medicinal seller and recreation seller could set up side-by-side and there is no separation requirement at all for how close recreational sellers can be to each other.
Conflicting rules at the state level, particularly because two different government agencies are performing the licensing, have resulted in a hodgepodge of local regulation around the state. The City of Salem threw up its hands in the matter, deciding only to require the business owners to register their shops and allowing whatever the state decides to prevail in other matters.
Michael said the city would benefit from the increase in licensing fees and that she hoped to grow her business to include five employees. She currently only has one other than herself.
Keizer City Councilor Mark Caillier was one of the first to chime in during discussions.
“We have three current (marijuana) businesses. Keizer voted against (legalizing recreational sales), and my recollection in attending task force is that we chose to try and reflect how the citizens of Keizer voted,” Caillier said regarding the reason a distancing requirement was enacted.
Mayor Cathy Clark echoed Caillier, “I remember specifically talking about this rule and it was made with the intention of regulating the time, place and manner of recreational sales.”
The 1,500-foot separation from schools is evidence of some of the detailed discussions the task force grappled with. Because McNary High School is within 1,000 feet of areas zoned for recreational sales, task force members expanded the distancing requirement to put them out of easy walking distance for students – who wouldn’t be able to legally purchase marijuana at any rate.
“This is a very difficult balance. We’re dealing with a longtime business, but we also know how our community felt on this issue,” said Councilor Roland Herrera.
Despite the hesitation, no one spoke when council members were offered the opportunity to make a motion to repeal the distancing requirement.