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City takes 'wait and see' stand

MONMOUTH — The Monmouth City Council will not take steps to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Monmouth right now, City Manager Scott McClure said.

December 10, 2013

MONMOUTH — The Monmouth City Council will not take steps to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Monmouth right now, City Manager Scott McClure said.

When Oregon began allowing medical marijuana cards, people could either grow their own or have someone grow it for them, he said.

"The Legislature last year decided to step it up," he said. "Instead of finding someone, let's set up medical marijuana dispensaries. You go to a store, go in, buy your product, like a regular store."

The question of cities having a say in allowing dispensaries was brought up by the League of Oregon Cities, McClure said.

The league was tracking the issue as it made its way through committees, he said.

"Their opinion is we do have some authority," McClure said. "The Legislature said 'no, we don't think so.'"

There are a few ways cities may regulate businesses such as medical marijuana dispensaries, he said: through business licenses or by saying businesses have to follow all federal, state and local laws.

Medical marijuana dispensaries would not be following federal law, which does not recognize marijuana as a medicine.

"It's a challenge to do that, because you only have picked one federal law," McClure said.

There's a good chance the state Legislature will clarify the rules next spring during its short session, he added.

"We are wait and see right now," McClure said.

Within the last few weeks, someone approached the city wanting to open a dispensary, McClure said.

"Generally, it would be better for him to wait," McClure said. "We wouldn't want anyone to go through a sequence and then, 'Oh, you can't operate here.'"

The dispensary would be located on Price Lane, he said, in what was once a print shop.

"One of the stipulations from the state is 1,000 feet from a school," McClure said. "That one is 1,045 feet."

Another hurdle a dispensary owner would have to face is land use.

"He would have to go through conditional use, if the council didn't want regulations or the state said we didn't have any," McClure said.

That would require notifying any neighbors within 250 feet, among other things.

"It wouldn't be like you'd show up one day and, hey, look, there it is," McClure said.

The zoning on the Price Street location is for office or commercial use. Coding a medical marijuana dispensary would be a challenge, he said. City officials would have to determine if it was retail or pharmacy, or something else.

"It'd be complicated even if everyone said it was completely legal," McClure said. "The site itself has that complication attached to it."

Did You Know?

• According to the Oregon Health Authority, there are 58,990 registered patients in Oregon, including 837 in Polk County, nearly double the number in the county since 2010.

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