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Moratorium would give Forest Grove a year to study, prepare

The possible establishment of medical-marijuana dispensaries will likely be postponed for a year at the upcoming Forest Grove City Council meeting Monday, April 28.

“I would be shocked if it didn’t happen,” Mayor Pete Truax said.

In voting for the delay, councilors would follow three Washington County neighbors — Cornelius, Banks and Hillsboro, whose city councils have already adopted such a moratorium, as have 75 percent of the cities in Oregon, according to City Manager Michael Sykes.

Forest Grove is cutting it close, given that May 1 is the deadline for cities to vote to impose the moratorium, which would start May 1 and give cities a year to prepare for potential repercussions. It would expire May 1, 2015, at which point dispensaries would be relatively free to set up shop around the state.

At a work session April 14, Forest Grove Police Chief Janie Schutz told councilors Forest Grove needed time to study the issues related to such dispensaries and to train officers in how to handle problems.

For example, the current method for detecting a person’s level of impairment under the influence of marijuana is complex and Schutz would like to see if it could be improved to accommodate the potential increase of Driving Under the Influence arrests.

Another problem, she said, is that hashish oil would be legal under the medical-marijuana law. Given that two Forest Grove citizens were seriously burned in separate incidents this past year where hashish oil was involved in explosions, Schutz is leery of that particular provision.

And the financial nature of medical-marijuana dispensaries — which are primarily cash-only in other states — can attract crime, she said.

Banks might be able to partner with dispensaries but all these issues take time to investigate and set up, she said.

The moratorium “buys us a year of time to set up our own ordinance,” Sykes said.

City Attorney Paul Elsner reminded councilors that they will not be able to completely prohibit medical-marijuana dispensaries.

“An all-out ban would invite litigation,” Elsner said. “The winds are shifting in terms of public acceptance.”

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