Forget pot dispensaries for now

Marijuana seized by the state police.

Back to business as usual: Illegal marijuana seized by the state police.

You can forget about legal dispensaries of medical marijuana in Oregon for the foreseeable future -- unless voters approve legalization of the weed in the form of an initiative this fall. The state Senate voted this morning, 28-2, to go along with changes the House had made in SB 1531.

Assuming the governor signs the bill, cities and counties will now be able to block the establishment of medical marijuana stores by passing, by May 1, moratoriums that would last until May 1, 2015. Albany, Linn County and all other mid-valley jurisdictions are likely to make use of this provision. Any local jurisdiction that fails to do so would run the risk of becoming Marijuana Central in the valley, and which town or county would want that?

The delay in medical marijuana stores will give the 2015 legislature another chance to repeal their legalization completely. All mid-valley legislators supported the moratorium bill, which also subjects would-be weed store operators to criminal prosecution while the moratorium is in place. If any store operators have already paid their $4,000 initial registration fee to the state, the bill says they can ask for their money back.

The bill is a retreat from the 2013 law that allowed medical marijuana dispensaries under strict state regulations starting this spring. You have to ask yourself what happened to the House and Senate majorities that enacted that law last year? Well, they buckled under lobbying from the League of Oregon Cities and the Association of Oregon Counties.

It was a sensible idea to legalize and regulate the trade in medical marijuana in order to make illegal marijuana production less tempting and less profitable. But because of the cities and the counties, that sensible idea is now dead. And the illegal business will go on as before. (hh)

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