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home : current news : current news November 24, 2015

7/29/2014 12:44:00 PM
Pot question to hit November ballot
By John Griffith

Following up on their March decision to place a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Sisters, the City of Sisters is moving ahead with the crafting of a ballot measure to get the citizens' input on whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Sisters.

Thursday night's 4-0 vote was for the title of a ballot measure only. This is the first in a series of steps required to qualify a ballot measure for November. The ballot title caption is: "Amends City Code To Allow Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Within Sisters." Voters will vote that up or down.

City Manager Andrew Gorayeb reported, "We have had three meetings with members of the public that expressed interest in this whole issue... One of them actually involved taking a trip to Bend and physically looking at eight different dispensaries out there. In one instance we actually went inside and met the owner and spent probably 45 minutes interacting with her. It was actually a very open dialog.

"We are working on some of the criteria that would be contained in the measure if the voters were to say yes. These would be with regard to exterior signage, locational restrictions and any number of other restrictions, including possibly taxing," concluded Gorayeb.

A committee will continue to refine and define the key issues that they are interested in, then the City attorney will craft the wording of the full ballot measure and the wording of any restrictions that the City would like to see implemented as a result of a possible "yes" vote in November.

Back on March 27, the City council passed a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in the city on a 5-0 vote. Following the advice of legal counsel, this eliminated the risk of a lawsuit as a result of being in the cross-fire between state law and federal law.

Other than Bend, most other Central Oregon cities and Deschutes County have passed similar temporary bans.

Current Oregon law allows for and is now licensing medical marijuana dispensaries. An Oregon city that denies a proper request for a business license for a dispensary could be sued. At the same time, federal statutes still carry marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. As a Schedule I substance, the growing of or possession of any quantity of marijuana for any reason is subject to federal felony prosecution.

Despite the spate of new marijuana laws, including legalization of recreational use in Washington and Colorado, federal laws remain in effect, treating marijuana as a controlled substance, the same as cocaine or heroin.

In a second vote back in March, the council voted 5-0 to place a measure on the November ballot to give Sisters residents the opportunity to decide whether or not they would support medical marijuana dispensaries in Sisters.

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.

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