Medical marijuana decisions coming soon

County Commission, City of Cascade Locks to consider moratoriums

Local governments will be voting in the next couple weeks on whether to adopt ordinances that would place up to one-year moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries that are now legally allowed to operate in the state of Oregon.

The Hood River County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing during its regular meeting Monday, April 21, at 6 p.m. to consider whether the board should adopt a six-month moratorium that would ban dispensaries from operating in the unincorporated areas of Hood River County. Commissioners chose the six-month ban, in part, because an initiative proposing the legalization of recreational marijuana will likely be on the ballot for the November election, rendering the need for a moratorium moot if the initiative passes. The board plans to deliberate and likely vote on the ordinance after receiving public testimony.

The Cascade Locks City Council will also be voting on an ordinance during its regular meeting Monday, April 28 at 7 p.m. that would place a year-long moratorium on dispensaries within city limits. The city is not holding a de facto public hearing on the matter, but City Administrator Gordon Zimmerman said the public will be allowed to speak about dispensaries or other subjects as they can at every council meeting. The council had the first reading of the ordinance at its meeting on April 14 and Zimmerman said nobody in the audience offered public comment.

The City of Hood River will not be moving forward with a moratorium after councilors failed to make a motion directing staff to draft such an ordinance. Councilors, as well as Mayor Arthur Babitz, indicated they were not in favor of a moratorium due to their desire to not impede patient access to medical marijuana, as well as their belief that the state already has adequate controls in place to regulate dispensaries without the city adding its own.

Local governments are scrambling to get the moratoriums in place before the May 1 deadline set in the bill passed by the Oregon State Legislature earlier last month that allows municipalities to enact the moratoriums. The bill was designed to give governments extra time to craft additional rules that would place “reasonable restrictions” on the “time, place, and manner” in which dispensaries operate.

According to the most recent information released by the Oregon Health Authority, which oversees the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, two dispensaries have applied to operate in Hood River County out of the 313 applications received by the state. One dispensary, The Gorge Green Cross, has received a provisional license from the OHA to operate on Oak Street within the city of Hood River, and dispensary owner Mike Rachford, hopes to be open “within the next month or so.”

The proposed location of the other dispensary in Hood River County is unknown at this time. The OHA is legally prohibited from disclosing the location of dispensaries to the public unless dispensary owners elect to waive their right to confidentiality.

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