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City Council members approve final fees, documentation for cannabis business hopefuls

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Denise Chausse, a partner in the Columbia Craft Cannabis grow business in St. Helens, addresses the St. Helens City Council on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Chausse spoke to council members about the health benefits of marijuana, stressing the importance of having open conversations about the drug. The St. Helens City Council voted unanimously Wednesday, Dec. 2, to approve all paperwork necessary for marijuana-related businesses to obtain licenses from the city.

After months of deliberations and discussion, the City Council approved implementation of a marijuana-related business license fee along with a 7 percent community impact payment to be paid by marijuana retail shops. The community impact payment is intended to mitigate the effects marijuana sales would have on the community.

The license fee amount is still to be determined.

The ordinance passed Wednesday night expands upon a previously passed ordinance that allowed the city to issue business licenses to marijuana retailers after they had obtained specific documentation from the city.

The City Council first approved business licenses for marijuana dispensaries in early September, requiring applicants to be licensed by the state, obtain a St. Helens business license, obtain a St. Helens marijuana-related business license, and to enter into a community impact agreement.

Lengthy discussions between City Council members, business applicants — including nurseries and retail shops — legal advisors and community members had delayed approval of the finalized documents.

“Cannabis should be taxed, but not to death. It should be regulated, but not to death. And it should be supported like new and legal businesses to bring a new revenue stream into a struggling economy in a small town,” said Denise Chausse, a partner in the Columbia Craft Cannabis grow business in St. Helens.

City Administrator John Walsh cautioned the council during a work session Wednesday, saying discussions and decisions about marijuana-related business in the community would likely come up in the future with the adjustment of state regulations and laws.

“I preface any of what we talk about today with, we’ll probably talk about it again in the future,” Walsh said. “Marijuana is a very uncertain, unsettled, fluid kind of process going on in lots of different arenas.”

The community impact agreement establishes a 7 percent of gross sales fee to be paid quarterly to the city by marijuana retailers, but not growers. The money collected from the fee would be used to fund programs that support public safety, law enforcement and public health.

One clause of the community impact agreement allows the City Council to annually review and adjust the community impact fee as needed, but caps it at 7 percent.

The City Council is expected to present an ordinance establishing the marijuana business license fee at the next meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

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