The Wilsonville City Council has decided to avoid the ongoing controversy over medical marijuana dispensaries for at least another year, as councilors voted unanimously to adopt a one-year moratorium on any medical marijuana-related businesses within city limits.

The action comes on top of an ordinance passed earlier this year that requires city business licensees to abide by all state and federal laws and regulations. Because the federal government continues to refuse to legalize the use of marijuana as a medicine this has the effect of outlawing dispensaries and other medical marijuana businesses.

Allowing cities and counties to enact up to a one-year moratorium is a stop-gap measure approved by the state legislature earlier this spring. Those jurisdictions taking advantage of the new rule must do so by May 1, said Wilsonville Assistant City Attorney Barbara Jacobson.

“In their last short session, the legislature passed legislation that allows cities to pass up to a one-year moratorium,” Jacobson said at the council’s April 7 meeting. “In the next (legislative) session there will be much more on medical marijuana as well as the legalization of marijuana. But this gives us an interim measure to see what happens here in the fall.”

Senate Bill 1531c, approved last month at the end of the 2014 legislative session, allows Oregon cities to adopt a one-year ban on registered medical marijuana outlets from May 1, 2014 to May 1, 2015. Any such regulations then would sunset out of legal existence on May 1, 2016.

Metro area cities with bans or regulations that effectively prohibit dispensaries include Fairview, Gresham, Sandy, Scappoose and Wood Village, while 15 other cities in Oregon do the same. The cities of Beaverton, Cornelius, Gladstone, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Tualatin, Tigard and Sherwood have all enacted one-year moratoriums so far, with six others around the state following suit.

SB 1531c comes in the wake of House Bill 3460, which was passed during the 2013 session and created the first legal framework for regulating and licensing medical marijuana dispensaries statewide. Before that, dispensaries, which remain outlawed under federal law, operated in an ad hoc fashion, with local jurisdictions deciding whether or not to allow their presence.

In some cities, such as Portland, dispensaries have spread and become an otherwise normal part of the landscape. But in the outlaying metro suburbs, that has not been the case to date.

“We’ve gone along with the suggestion by the (state) Legislature and League of Oregon Cities,” Jacobson told Wilsonville councilors. “So the ordinance before you tonight would impose a one-year ban, and hopefully by then a longer-term solution will have been arrived at.

“This does not nullify the business ordinance that you passed a few sessions ago,” she added. “The two ordinances are complimentary, and a year from now we’ll probably be talking about something slightly different depending on what the legislature does.”

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