3/25/2014 2:07:00 PM City headed to vote
on medical marijuana
By John Griffith
An ordinance to ban medical marijuana facilities in Sisters will be presented for a vote at the March 27 city council meeting. The council is also considering placing the matter on the ballot in November.
A moratorium was recommended by city attorney Steve Bryant due to the conflict between current Federal and Oregon state laws.
Medical marijuana became legal in Oregon in 1998, but federal law has not changed. Recent licensing of dispensaries in the state has put cities in the difficult position of having to obey state law and issue business licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries, and therefore be in violation of federal law.
The current Sisters city charter and business license language require applicants to be in compliance with both state and federal law.
At the close of this last legislative session the state enacted SB1531, which allows municipalities to place a moratorium on licensing medical marijuana facilities until May 1, 2015, if they claim an "emergency" situation before May 1, 2014. It is hoped that by May 2015 the state will have sorted out the conflicting issues.
The city council is moving to pass a moratorium on dispensaries before the May 1, 2014 deadline to avoid potential legal entanglements. The council is also proposing to place the question of medical marijuana as a measure on the November ballot. If a ballot measure passes, the City would likely look to set a limit on the number of dispensaries, and to tax their sales.
There is some opinion that if in fact the state determines a way to resolve the federal enforcement issues, then the state will provide that protection to the cities, and in return collect the taxes for all sales. Current opinion is also that if the state prevails, they will not seek taxes on sales from cities that have already implemented their own tax structure on those sales.
Redmond, Madras, Prineville and La Pine have reportedly enacted or are considering similar moratoriums. Deschutes County has passed a moratorium. At the same time, Bend has increased the number of dispensaries from eight to 12.
Despite the spate of new marijuana laws, including legalization of recreational use in Washington and Colorado, strict federal laws remain in effect, treating marijuana as a controlled substance, the same as cocaine or heroin.