Dispensaries: Lots of comment, no effect

Albany City Hall, where you might as well save your breath.

Albany City Hall, where you might as well save your breath.

So much for public comment at Albany City Council meetings. It doesn't mean much to the council -- or anything actually -- when it comes to medical marijuana and legal dispensaries.

On Wednesday night the council spent 95 minutes listening to 23 people on two proposals, one to ban medical pot dispensaries for a year, the other to allow them but with restrictions in addition to those imposed by the state. Twenty-one of the speakers, one or two of them in tears, opposed one or both proposals. They talked about how they were able to function at work or suffer less pain because of what has proved to be medicine to them. Some of them related their problems finding medical marijuana when they first got their cards under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. Most of them talked about the benefits of being able to buy the material from a legally authorized and state-regulated dispensary.

The council listened, but four members evidently did not hear them. Councilors Rich Kellum, Floyd Collins and Bessie Johnson repeated what they said before, that they favored the proposed one-year Albany ban. Councilor Bill Coburn had voted earlier to consider a ban, then told me Monday he would not vote for one, but on Wednesday said he would go for at least a temporary ban after all while the council gets more information. He mentioned he had received a call from state Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, on how the legislature had acted hastily in authorizing dispensaries last year.

Councilors Ray Kopczynski and Dick Olsen indicated again their opposition to the ban, and Olsen also is against restrictions. Kopczynski considered it "unconscionable" for the council to deny citizens convenient local access to what the state says is a legal remedy.

Their opposition prevented the ban to be enacted Wednesday. It will come up again for a council vote on April 9, and unless Coburn changes his mind again, it will have the four votes required to pass and take effect immediately. If the dispensary ban passes, the council won't take up the ordinance calling for additional rules.

Coburn asked that the text be clarified so as not to affect -- and inadvertently ban -- Canna Kitchen, an Albany business that processes material for medical marijuana card holders so they don't have to smoke it.

On April 9, the customary public comment period will come after the vote on the ban, so members of the public can save their breath, as they could have Wednesday for all the effect they had. (hh)

If you're interested, you can see Wednesday's entire Albany council meeting and medical pot discussion rebroadcast every weekday at 7 pm. on the Albany Comcast cable system, channel 28 in Linn County and channel 23 in Benton County.

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