By Pat Caldwell
The Baker City Council edged closer to approving a prohibition on medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday night during its regular meeting at City Hall.
The Council endorsed the first and second readings of Ordinance 3330, a proposed mandate that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.
Now the ordinance will face just one more reading, likely at the Council's next meeting, Feb. 26. If the council votes to approve the mandate then the ordinance will be on the books.
The council also reviewed and debated a separate - but related - business license ordinance Tuesday. Ordinance 3331 was also designed to restrict medical marijuana dispensaries by stipulating ventures inside city limits must be in compliance with local, state and federal laws. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.
The medical marijuana dispensary discussion gobbled up most of the time at the session and early on it was evident that some councilors have misgivings about the proposal.
While councilors appeared unanimous in their desire to find a way to restrict marijuana dispensaries, some were not sure a business license was the way to do it.
Councilor Clair Button voiced unease about the business license ordinance and said it appeared to be too wide-ranging in its potential impact.
"The only thing we exclude (in the draft ordinance) is garage sales," he said.
Councilor Kim Mosier said she arrived at the session ready to support a new business license but agreed that further reflection by the Council on the proposed ordinance may be wise.
"There is just so much that goes into the idea of putting together a business license. Some of the issues councilman Button raised regarding infrastructure would require some careful thought and planning. I do think we need to, at some point not too far off from now, to look at a business license ordinance," Mosier said.
The council decided to seek refinements in the business license proposal and to move ahead on Ordinance 3330.
The council also gave the green light for the city to move ahead with the purchase of golf course equipment and appointed two individuals to the Historic District Design Review Commission, two to the Budget Board and one person to the planning commission.
The Council approved Ordinance No. 3332 - Creating a Public Arts Commission - on its first reading.
During the citizen's participation portion of the session, Paul Dunkak spoke to the Council about a feral cat problem in Baker City.
Gary Marlette then asked Mayor Richard Langrell if he intended to continue his battle with the city over water and sewer fees. Langrell asserts the city owes him money for charging his motel double water and sewer fees during the past several years. The city believes it owes Langrell nothing.
Marlette asked Langrell if he was still planning on getting reimbursed almost $15,000 by the city.
"Absolutely," Langrell said.
Cities' approaches differ on medical pot stores
By Pat Caldwell
Baker City Herald
and Kelly Ducote
The (La Grande) Observer
Officials in Baker City and Ontario say they believe medical marijuana dispensaries are a bad idea and are actively working to create local ordinances to curtail such establishments, but their counterparts in La Grande haven't been as active on the issue.
Currently, Oregon law compels the Oregon Health Authority to create and then execute a program to register medical marijuana facilities/dispensaries. Under the law, such facilities must be situated on property zoned commercial, industrial or agriculture. The law goes into effect March 1.
The Baker City Council debated two separate ordinances Tuesday night - one an outright ban of dispensaries and another business license ordinance that stipulates any new ventures in town must comply with federal law. Currently marijuana is illegal under federal law.
Ontario Police Chief Mark Alexander said earlier this week elected leaders there might also review a proposal to ban dispensaries.
In La Grande, though, the medical marijuana dispensary issue apparently has gained little political traction.
One La Grande official said there has not been discussion there about a ban. In fact, La Grande City Planner Mike Boquist said a permit was issued recently for a marijuana testing facility.
"I don't know if he's going to be allowed to operate yet," Boquist said.
The La Grande facility - situated in the SAC Annex - is set to test marijuana to make sure its meets state requirements for mold, Boquist said.
Several members of the Baker City Council said they are opposed to any marijuana medical dispensary in town and believe some kind of mandate to restrict the facilities is not only a good idea but necessary.
"I'm not in favor of a dispensary. I think they're problematic," Councilor Roger Coles said.
Tuesday, an Oregon Senate Bill - SB 1531 - faced examination before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first of what could be a number of legislative hurdles for the proposal that gives cities and counties in Oregon the power to regulate dispensaries.
As the Oregon Senate bill negotiates its way through the Legislature, opposition from law enforcement officials across the state to medical marijuana dispensaries appears to be growing.
Monday a coalition of law enforcement officials from nine Willamette Valley cities issued a statement in opposition to medical marijuana dispensaries.
Alexander, the Ontario police chief, said he, too, isn't a big fan of the dispensaries.
"I'm against them because of the problems they bring," Alexander said.
Alexander said Ontario's elected leaders are pondering a move to create some kind of decree to ban the dispensaries.
"We're doing some considering. We've been discussing a business license for quite a while," he said.
In La Grande, for now, the city is categorizing the marijuana test site as a pharmacy since the city does not have specific standards for marijuana dispensaries.
The testing facility business permit has been approved, and at least one other person has requested paperwork for a dispensary.
Support for a medical marijuana dispensary was obvious Saturday at the Oregon Green Free Eastern Oregon meeting in La Grande. About 40 marijuana patients gathered at the Integrated Services Building for their monthly meeting despite the snowy weather.
Oregon Green Free members read the mission statement aloud at the start of the meeting, which includes a potluck luncheon. This past Saturday they held a spaghetti contest.
Oregon Green Free Eastern Oregon President Dorene Johnson was pleased to tell the group that the contract with Eastern Oregon University to meet in the building had been extended to the summer despite someone's attempt to get them out.
Before lunch, when members of the public are allowed in on the meeting, an older man who is not a patient under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act asked about using marijuana for glaucoma.
"Cannabis is a miraculous medicine," Johnson told him. "It does wonderful things."
Green Free organizers said their goal is to help patients be self-sufficient.
"People do come here to learn," said Frank Kee, vice president.
Back in Baker City, Coles said that the entire medical marijuana dispensary issue is a bankrupt one.
"I'd hate to see the community get into those things. The city has enough problems," Coles said.
In an interview last week Baker City Councilor Kim Mosier echoed Coles' misgivings about medical marijuana facilities.
"I don't know the likelihood of someone wanting to open a dispensary in Baker City. If we can prevent it by putting into place a simple, straight-forward business license, I'm all for it," Mosier said.