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Group charged with amending city's code to conform with state regulations



Oregon’s marijuana laws remain hazy and a subcommittee appointed by the Newberg City Council has convened to learn and deliberate on what effects the laws will have locally.

The committee’s formation comes on the heels of the Legislature’s passage of House Bill 3400 over the summer, which brought a host of new regulations into the mix for legal marijuana operations.

Community Development Director Doug Rux explained the differences between medical and recreational pot in Oregon, particularly in how they are treated in state law under the new regulations. Both the lists of similarities and differences are extensive, but the key difference between the types is the regulating body. For recreational pot, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is in charge, while the Oregon Health Authority covers the medical side.

Under the most recent rules ushered in by HB 3400, there are seven main regulated marijuana activities: grow sites, processing sites and dispensaries on the medical side; producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers on the recreational.

Medical dispensaries are so far the only one of those seven activities for which Newberg has adopted rules governing time, place and manner of operation on top of the state guidelines.

“We’re talking about zoning,” City Attorney Truman Stone said. “It’s land use. It’s trying to fit this new activity within our zoning code.”

There is still some time before regulations must be crafted for sales of recreational marijuana. While the OLCC will begin accepting applications for all four recreational categories Jan. 3, Rux said at this point the best information he has is that licenses will not be issued before “the second half of 2016,” suggesting July 1 would be the earliest possible licensing date.

However, the new legislation created a deadline on March 1 to begin licensing medical growers and processors, and given numerous waiting period requirements involved in amending city code, the process would have to begin immediately.

“In order to be in front of that March 1 deadline we’ve got kind of a short window to (complete) all the steps that we need to go through,” Rux said.

To get a program in place that would cover medical growers and processors, the council would need to initiate a development code amendment by Dec. 7. On Dec. 9 the subcommittee would meet to talk again about grower and processor regulations, as the following day Rux would submit the required 35-day notice to the state for development code changes. On Jan. 14, after that period is up, the planning commission would need to hold a hearing on the development code amendment, making a recommendation to council.

Feb. 1 would be the public hearing by the council to discuss the regulations and if councilors waived the second reading and included an emergency clause, the development code amendment would take effect before that March 1 date.

The council will likely initiate the process at Monday evening’s meeting.

Another issue the committee will consider is how paraphernalia sales will be handled locally.

“We’re getting questions on a regular basis,” Rux said. “We probably need to advance that further ahead than what we had initially anticipated.”

“Every mini mart … is calling because once one of them starts selling they feel there’s this inequity and so they either want nobody to do it or if any of them do it then they all want to do it,” Stone said.

During a recent council meeting the topic arose when a local business owner queried the city on whether it planned to change the city’s definition of paraphernalia as the state’s definition had been revised with the passage of Measure 91.

The measure created a separate class of “marijuana paraphernalia” apart from “drug paraphernalia.” Under Newberg Municipal Code 9.10.030, no distinction between illegal drug paraphernalia and marijuana paraphernalia yet exists.

“We are aware the state statute changed and that there’s a different definition for marijuana paraphernalia,” Stone said during the meeting. “I’ve had some conversations with the police department and we’ve asked for some additional input to try to look at our municipal code to make sure it lines up with state law.”

The subcommittee will meet next at 1 p.m. Dec. 9.

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