City recreational marijuana ordinance still undecided

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Vote on ordinance last fall resulted in a 3-3 tie, meaning the matter must still be considered by city council

It wasn't all that long ago that the City of Prineville thought they were done with the arduous task of developing land use code for recreational marijuana.

But this past Tuesday, the Prineville City Council learned they had one more loose end to tie.

After Measure 91 passed in November 2014, the City Planning Department developed an overlay map that detailed where recreational marijuana businesses would be allowed in Prineville. Once that was presented to the council, the councilors debated how to apply the new code. Because marijuana use and sales remained illegal at the federal level, they struggled with allowing legal sales of it in the community.

They ultimately decided on an ordinance that they thought would enable them to accept the code while keeping recreational marijuana sales contingent upon whether it was legal at the federal level. However, the language in the ordinance didn't end up making that distinction.

"The city passed Ordinance 1215 in June 2015 to amend the city's comprehensive plan and development code to allow certain recreational marijuana activities in certain areas of the city only when federal government reduces the classification of marijuana to less than a Schedule I drug," explained City Attorney Carl Dutli. "Concerns were raised that the intent of the council was really to decriminalize marijuana completely, so Ordinance 1222 was drafted to amend Ordinance 1215 so that recreational marijuana opportunities in Prineville would only be allowable if marijuana was no longer on any of the schedules I-V."

The City Council subsequently passed Ordinance 1222 for the first time in June 2016. It passed 4-1, with two councilors absent. However, that wasn't the end of it.

"Because there was some concern that we may be dealing with a land use issue with Ordinance 1222, Phil (Stenbeck, City Planning Director) sent notices out to the Department of Land Conservation and Development, public hearings were held before the (Prineville) Planning Commission and when it came back to the city, there was a public hearing at the Aug. 23, 2016, council meeting."

During that meeting, three councilors voted in favor of the ordinance, and three voted against. One councilor was not present.

"My understanding of Roberts Rules of Order is essentially by having a tie, we didn't dispose of that ordinance. It's just floating around out there," Dutli said.

The plan was to wait until the next council meeting where all seven members were present, include another reading of the ordinance on the agenda, and pass it. However, there was only one other meeting during the remainder of 2016 when all seven councilors were in attendance, and the ordinance was not addressed at that time.

"So here we are, next year, some new councilor members (recently elected Teresa Rodriguez) and we still have Ordinance 1222," Dutli said. "I would recommend that we have it on the agenda, and we'll see where it goes."

Also given the nature of the situation and the controversy surrounding recreational marijuana sales, Dutli recommended hearing and passing the ordinance twice during consecutive meetings.

"It may not help, but it can't hurt," he said.

The council discussed the situation and determined that the next date all seven councilors would be in attendance is March 14. They will consequently discuss the matter at that time.