Falls City says ‘no’ to pot dispensaries

Marijuana businesses still illegal

FALLS CITY — The Falls City City Council voted against allowing medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits at its meeting Thursday night.

On a 4-2 vote, the council declined to amend its development code, adding a provision that would have excluded dispensaries from having to comply with federal law. The federal government doesn’t currently recognize medical uses for marijuana.

Councilors Lori Jean Sickles, Dennis Sickles, Barbara Spencer and Julee Bishop voted against the amendment, while John Volkmann and Terry Ungricht supported the change.

City residents at the meeting mostly spoke against the amendment, saying it would invite undesirable “outside elements” into the city, damage the city’s reputation, and send a message to children that encourages marijuana use. A few parents even threatened to remove their children from the Falls City School District if the amendment was approved.

“You are not the only ones I’ve heard this from,” Dennis Sickles said. “There is a movement in this community against this (amendment).”

Sickles stressed that the dwindling police presence in town — Falls City is covered by the increasingly understaffed Polk County Sheriff’s Office — is a concern in regards to potential illegal sales.

“I don’t see how you can propose to control what is going on here when you don’t have police protection in this city,” he said.

Ungricht said he understands those arguments, but believes the regulation dispensaries are under would limit access to children.

Volkmann agreed and added the debate regarding a potential dispensary should distinguish between illegal use of marijuana and medical use.

“This brings a regulatory mechanism to the realm of marijuana that has never been there before,” Volkmann said. “I think if we don’t separate these things out — look at the two very distinct aspects of this substance — we are kind of dooming ourselves of reactionary politics … confusing criminality with medical marijuana.”

Spencer said her concern wasn’t for the legitimacy of medical uses of the drug, but fears the presence of a dispensary would create a mindset among young people that any kind of marijuana use is OK.

“They are not able to discern the way adults are,” she said. “It’s not worth the gamble for me.”

She added those who need medical marijuana can drive to dispensaries in Independence or Salem to get it.

Lori Jean Sickles, who like Spencer believes there is a need for medical marijuana, said she would like to see the decision regarding dispensaries be made by others.

“I would like to see it be on the ballot for the citizens to decide,” she said. “It’s a big decision for six people to make, and I don’t feel comfortable with it.”

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