County considering extending medical marijuana moratorium

Public hearing scheduled for Oct. 13

Cannabis leaf.

Credit: Thinkstock/Gety Images
Cannabis leaf.

The end of a six-month moratorium on the siting of medical marijuana facilities in Hood River County is rapidly approaching and the county will soon hold a public hearing on whether it wants to extend that ban.

Hood River County Administrator Dave Meriwether reported the Hood River County Board of Commissioners will decide at their next meeting Oct. 13 whether to extend the moratorium another six months.

An ordinance that put in place the moratorium was approved by commissioners during their April 21 meeting, which prevented medical marijuana dispensaries from setting up shop in the county’s unincorporated areas. It did not, however, prevent dispensaries from locating within the limits of incorporated cities and two dispensaries have since started doing business in the city of Hood River. Cascade Locks currently has no dispensaries as the city decided to enact its own year-long moratorium earlier this spring.

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state of Oregon since 1998, but it took another 15 years before dispensaries were legalized. Licensing of dispensaries began in March of this year, which corresponded with the passage of a law by the Oregon State Legislature that allows local governments to enact year-long moratoriums that are designed to give governing bodies time to enact “reasonable restrictions” on the “time, place, and manner” in which dispensaries operate.

So far, the county has not discussed placing any of these restrictions on potential county dispensaries if the moratorium were lifted.

Meriwether noted that the moratorium “is only dealing with medical marijuana” and would not apply if Measure 91, an initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state, is approved by voters.

The moratorium is the second issue governing marijuana that will be on the agenda of the Oct. 13 commission meeting. Commissioners will also consider approving an ordinance that would create a county tax on marijuana in case Measure 91 is approved in November. The ordinance is planned to be similar to one passed by the city of Ashland that would tax gross sales of medical marijuana at 5-percent and retail sales for recreational use at 10-percent. The tax would be in addition to a state tax, which is proposed to be $35 per ounce of dried marijuana flowers, according to the text of Measure 91.

The commission meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. at the County Business Administration Building located at 601 State St., Hood River.

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