Whatever happens with medical-marijuana dispensaries in Oregon, Albany won’t be in the forefront of trying to keep them out, at least for now. The city council Monday voted 4-2 to withdraw its application to change the city development code to prevent marijuana stores from getting started.
Council members Bill Coburn, Ray Kopczynski, Dick Olsen and Floyd Collins agreed with a suggestion by Mayor Sharon Konopa that the council walk away from the marijuana controversy. Councilors Bessie Johnson and Rich Kellum opposed the action but were outvoted.
The council had earlier voted to try to keep out medical marijuana dispensaries, which the 2013 legislature authorized under rules that will take effect in March. To accomplish its proposed ban, the council had asked for a change in the development or land use code to make it impossible to set up a dispensary anywhere in town. City Attorney Jim Delapoer drafted language that would prohibit any land use for possession of or dealing in any controlled substance in violation of state or federal law, and marijuana does remain illegal under federal law. The amendment seemingly would have banned even the use of weed by certified medical marijuana patients. Delapoer explained that if the council wanted to keep out dispensaries because they violate federal but allow use the medical pot , its position would be weaker if it came to a challenge.
After a public hearing on Jan. 27, the city planning commission voted 6-0 to recommend against the code change. The council had planned a public hearing on Feb. 26, but now it won’t come to that.
The issue of a city ban may not be dead, however. A bill pending in the state Senate, SB 1531, would allow cities and counties to restrict or ban marijuana dispensaries. The Senate Judiciary Committee planned a hearing and possible action on the bill and any of several amendments in Salem today (Feb. 11).