Temporary ban will keep dispensaries from town through Dec. 31

by: FILE PHOTO - The city of Tigard approved a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries until it can determine how the shops will be regulated.The city of Tigard has joined several Washington County cities in banning medical marijuana dispensaries, at least for the time being.

The City Council approved a temporary ban on retail establishments of the drug at its Tuesday meeting, saying that it needed time to consider what — if any — regulations the city would be able to place on the businesses.

“It would benefit the city to take the time and study the issue," said Tigard city planner John Floyd. "We will be able to identify any challenges to what we can practically enforce and how much authority local governments have to untangle some of those questions.”

Starting March 1, medical marijuana retail shops will become legal in Oregon. Several cities, including Tualatin, Sherwood, Hillsboro and Beaverton have passed ordinances banning the dispensaries.

The reasons for the bans have varied. Tualatin councilors have said that the ban is meant to keep illicit drugs from entering the city.

Tigard is taking a different approach.

“Medical marijuana is legal in Oregon,” said Tigard Mayor John L. Cook. “We are not here to discuss whether it’s a good idea to have it or not.”

Instead, Tigard councilors said the ban would be a stopgap while it gets its affairs in order, and has little to do with the pros or cons of marijuana as a medicine, or for recreation.

“The medical evidence is clear,” said Counclor Jason Snider. “ You can argue that you don’t like it, but the science is there.”

City Councilor Gretchen Buehner was the lone dissenting vote against the ban, saying that a moratorium would open the city up to litigation.

“Tualatin bought themselves a very expensive lawsuit that’s coming down the pipe,” Buehner said.

Questions linger

Dispensaries could already be banned under the city code, because any business building new construction must not violate federal law. However a loophole in city code would allow dispensaries from taking over existing locations, and allow existing businesses to begin offering medical marijuana services.

That was the case with The Human Collective, a dispensary that operated on Pacific Highway from 2010 to 2012, before it was shut down by Washington County Sheriff's Office.

The dispensary has since moved to Multnomah County.

But whether cities have the authority to regulate the businesses at all is open to debate. When the law legalizing dispensaries was approved it did little to address what local governments could do to regulate the businesses.

Current legislation in Salem would clarify what, if anything, cities would be able to do. But with dispensaries set to open across the state on March 1, councilors said it wanted to keep any dispensaries from opening until it gets more information from Salem.

What regulations could look like

The ban will last until the end of the year, if not lifted sooner.

Snider said that land use regulations against dispensaries could include rules about how close to schools the businesses can operate, and other restrictions, similar to those already placed on strip clubs or pornography shops located in town.

“We regulate eating and drinking establishments and we also regulate adult entertainment,” Floyd said. ”There are several ways can examine them.”

“What we are saying is that we need to carefully consider the land use implications and what it means,” Snider said. “There are too many questions in the law and conflicts in state and federal law. We need to talk about it more.”

The city will also consider the implications if Oregon opts to make recreational marijuana use legal.

“We need to have a proactive conversation so we know what we will do if and when recreational use comes together,” Snider said.

The Council agreed to reconsider the ban following the Legislature’s short session, which is scheduled to end in March.

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