Marijuana Dispensary Conference Provided Insight For What Is Coming

This week, several Woodburn representatives including City Councilor Pete McCallum and Planning Commissioner Sharon Corning, attended the 2014 League of Oregon Cities’ Marijuana Workshop. For those who follow the news closely, the passage of Oregon House Bill (HB) 3460 allowed for the introduction of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Oregon. Since the passage of HB 3460, local governments have been struggling with exactly what the law means and what municipal obligations are. In fact, there was so much confusion the Oregon Legislature extended local governments the opportunity for a one year dispensary moratorium in order to figure out how to manage the expected influx of marijuana dispensaries.

Then, Oregon Senate Bill 1531 passed and empowered local government to impose “reasonable rules” on dispensaries. Collectively, our cities are working at better understanding Oregon’s medical marijuana law, its local impacts and how to craft regulations that fall within the scope of the law while minimizing any detrimental impacts. This is new territory for local governments. The workshop included presentations from Oregon District Attorneys, representatives from Colorado and Washington, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, law enforcement, City Attorneys and various policymakers. There were also marijuana advocates and health care representatives present, too. All aspects of the new law were covered. It was fascinating learning about Colorado and Washington – states with legalized recreational use of marijuana – along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office perspective.

Marijuana dispensaries have been a topic of hot discussion with over 100 Oregon cities, including Woodburn, implementing a one year moratorium on marijuana dispensaries. During the moratorium period, Woodburn will develop proposed zoning restrictions and other reasonable conditions typically associated with commercial development, the law and other public safety concerns. These rules will begin with the Woodburn Planning Commission, led by Economic Services Director Jim Hendryx, and eventually be taken up by the Woodburn City Council. From a local government perspective, this is a complicated matter.

There are strong opinions on the topic of marijuana, making these efforts controversial in some communities. With marijuana legalization efforts springing up across the country, including several initiatives that potentially will brought before Oregon voters this November,  and some 60,000 medical marijuana cardholders in Oregon alone, the topic of marijuana is going to be on the forefront of public debate for some time to come.

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