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County to discuss medical marijuana moratorium

The Hood River County Board of Commissioners may soon take the opportunity to exercise a new law that gives local governments the power to temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries, which became legal in the state of Oregon last week.

Hood River County Administrator Dave Meriwether reported Monday that the agenda for the commission’s regular meeting scheduled for Monday, March 17, will include a discussion on the moratoriums, which Oregon legislators approved on Friday near the end of their regular legislative session. The law, which permits year-long bans on dispensaries, also allows local governments to place “reasonable restrictions” on the hours, locations, and manner in which dispensaries operate.

“The commission will discuss whether or not we want to do that,” Meriwether said of imposing the moratorium, “and the whole issue of medical marijuana.”

Meriwether added, however, that he had not instructed staff to put together any draft ordinance regarding a moratorium because the commission has not yet discussed the issue. He also noted the Association of Oregon Counties was likely drafting a model ordinance for counties that do want to ban dispensaries, but said he didn’t expect the commission would adopt such an ordinance during the March 17 meeting, even if it were available.

According to the latest numbers from the Oregon Health Authority, which oversees the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, over 280 people statewide have submitted applications to register dispensaries with the OMMP since the registry opened March 3. Karynn Fish, public information officer for OHA, said two of those applications came from Hood River County.

Originally, the OMMP wasn’t releasing numbers for counties that had fewer than 10 applications due to confidentiality reasons. However, Fish said Friday evening that “after strong interest from the public this week, the [OMMP] consulted with the Department of Justice on the matter and determined that it is permissible to release more detailed county numbers.”

However, a provision in the state’s medical marijuana law still prohibits the OMMP from releasing information about a dispensary’s location or owner unless the owner decides to waive confidentiality. Fish said that dispensary owners who wish to waive their right to confidentiality will be included in a directory of registered dispensaries that will be online at mmj.oregon.gov in the coming weeks as applications are approved.

Due to the secrecy surrounding dispensary locations, it won’t necessarily be known whether a dispensary is located in the county proper or within the Cascade Locks or Hood River city limits. Both city councils were scheduled to meet Monday night and neither council’s posted agenda contained any item regarding a moratorium on dispensaries.

However, Mike Rachford, who has applied to open a dispensary called The Gorge Green Cross in Hood River, approached the Hood River City Council Monday night with a letter asking for the council’s support. He did not say specifically where his dispensary would be located if it were approved, other than it was “in town and centrally located.” Council thanked Rachford for speaking, but took no action on his request for support, nor discussed dispensary moratoriums.

Governing bodies have until May 1 of this year to enact dispensary moratoriums if they wish, which would expire May 1, 2015.

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