Measure passes on a 5-2 vote

After a few comments from the public, the Damascus City Council voted 5-2 Monday, April 21, to pass a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. Councilors Andrew Jackman and Randy Shannon voted no.

The purpose of the moratorium is to give cities a chance to draw up their own regulations concerning dispensaries, which are sanctioned under state law and with state guidelines. At the end of the moratorium, May 1, 2015, dispensaries would be able to open anywhere they fit into the guidelines, whether state or local or both.

First to comment was Amy Margolis of Portland, who said she was appearing in behalf of a client who wants to open a dispensary in Damascus. She said the state rules for dispensaries have been carefully drawn up by lawmakers who worked with the Oregon Health Authority and law enforcement to be “a safe process for the community as well as for those using the store.”

Margolis said the most important issues for a dispensary are access to law enforcement, security, tracking sales and “expansive” record keeping.

“There would be cameras everywhere,” she said.

Under existing state rules, which include no dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, there really aren't that many places a dispensary could open in Damascus, Margolis said.

“There's probably only one or two (places) and you can trust law enforcement and watch it, but it's a safe way for people to have access to their meds,” she said.

Margolis said she recently went to a symposium on multiple sclerosis and learned about the benefits of medical marijuana.

“They talked about how marijuana is helping sick people in very significant ways with muscle spasms,” she said. “There is a safe way for dispensaries to be opened in your community.”

Jackman then said he believed the state regulations to be adequate.

“I don't know how to tell staff to alter the state regulations or what type of additional things (are) needed for cities,” he said. “We have no development groups now, so it would be staff.”

Margolis said the state regulations were drafted over many hearings in Salem.

“The governor said the program has to be safe and secure,” she said. “I'm not sure the city would need to add on to that.”

Resident John Fewkes then spoke against the measure on moral grounds.

“The medical view of marijuana use may have some merit, but it's a moral issue, and if law is not based on morality, the moral base is being undermined by a challenge to a long existing moral law,” Fewkes said.

Carolyn Mackey spoke next, reading a letter from her husband, who couldn't attend the meeting, about how he finished college in the 1960s and knew firsthand that “stoners can't be constructive in society” and “don't dare call it medicine.”

“You need to keep this federally illegal drug out of our cities,” she said.

Mayor Steve Spinnett said many cities have used federal law to justify an outright ban on dispensaries using city business license rules because selling marijuana still violates federal law, but city attorney Tim Ramis said Damascus doesn't have that option.

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