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The Woodburn City Council last week turned down a proposed ordinance that would have banned sales of recreational marijuana starting Oct. 1. Under state guidelines, medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to sell small amounts of recreational pot starting on that date.

Though Woodburn does not currently have any medical marijuana facilities, it is possible that one could be opened between Oct. 1 and the end of the early start program, which is set for Dec. 31, 2016.

The council's vote was 4-2, with Frank Lonergan and Rob Carney in favor, and Teresa Alonso Leon, Lisa Ellsworth, Sharon Schaub and Eric Morris opposed.

The council also declined to take any further action on marijuana, including a provision under state law that allows jurisdictions to put the matter of permitting recreational sales of marijuana before voters in the next general election (November 2016).

Woodburn resident Orlando Lopez spoke during a hearing prior to the vote and urged them not to ban recreational sales. He said there exists today an “active underground” market for marijuana sales in Woodburn, and prohibiting the legal sales of the substance would only strengthen that.

“I believe we should allow a legal way to sell marijuana, tax it, and then maybe use those resources to provide help for people who abuse it,” Lopez said. “But fully prohibiting it — that’s not the way to go.”

The council’s decision theoretically opens the possibility of recreational marijuana sales in Woodburn, but that may not actually be the case, according to Molly Drew, another resident who spoke during the Sept. 14 meeting.

That’s because, until the Oregon Liquor Control Commission establishes policies and procedures for retail sales of the stuff, the only way to legally purchase it is from medical marijuana dispensaries.

And, Drew pointed out, the strict zoning ordinance Woodburn officials approved in February effectively bans dispensaries in the city, since the owners of the one place such a business would be legal and feasible won’t permit it on their property.

“It’s kind of a catch-22. You will allow it, but only in this one building, and they won’t allow it,” Drew said to the City Council. “I think we need to open the area up a little more, to allow people to actually sell medical or recreational marijuana.”

There are actually about a dozen properties in the designated zone, but most of them are already occupied, and far too large for a facility that can’t be bigger than 3,000 square feet.

“It’s not just one property — it’s a number of properties. But only one, maybe two, buildings out there really avail themselves to this, because they’re small businesses,” Economic and Development Director Jim Hendryx said. “All the other businesses out there are large manufacturing businesses. They don’t have small lease space.”

Hendryx said he has also heard, anecdotally, that the owners of the business park that would be suitable aren’t interested in leasing space to marijuana businesses.

“I don’t really know what we could do about that,” City Administrator Scott Derickson admitted. “These are private property owners, who own commercial retail and have made a business decision about what they’re willing to do or not do.”

Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.

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