The Dalles Attorney Gene Parker is recommending the city temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries while it decides if and how these businesses should be regulated.
“This will just buy the city council some time to see what is happening at the state level and determine how they should proceed,” he said.
A public hearing on the ordinance that puts a moratorium on dispensaries until May 1, 2015, will take place at the April 14 meeting. The council convenes at 5:30 p.m. at city hall, 313 Court Street.
Parker said an attorney from Portland has contacted his office about establishing a dispensary and another business has made similar inquiries from the planning department.
“We have no verification that anyone plans to establish a dispensary but there have been conversations,” he said.
He said activists are now collecting signatures to get a measure on the November ballot that legalizes recreational use of marijuana. And the state is still trying to figure out how to enact a 2013 law to license and regulate dispensaries, which operated in a gray area for more than a decade.
For those reasons, Parker said the League of Oregon Cities has recommended that cities preserve their rights of governance while issues are being sorted out at the state level.
The legislature granted cities the right to ban dispensaries for a year if they act by May 1.
Oregon decriminalized marijuana possession in the 1970s and about 20 years later became one of the first states in the nation to authorize medical marijuana. But its 150-200 dispensaries have only recently had to register and officials are still working out how regulations will be applied.
Parker said Washington, which has legalized recreational use of marijuana, is grappling with the role of medical marijuana dispensaries, which could happen in Oregon if pot use is approved by voters.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but the Obama Administration has said that targeting individual users, especially those with serious illnesses, is not the best allocation of law enforcement resources.
The City of Medford has imposed a permanent ban upon dispensaries based on the federal law. Officials will not grant a license to an existing business for that reason and litigation is expected.
Meanwhile, Portland, which is Oregon’s largest city and already has a number of medical marijuana clinics, had declined the ban being pursued by 23 cities as of this week.
“There is a lot going on with this issue right now that still needs to be sorted out,” said Parker.