The Albany City Council keeps talking about additional local restrictions it could put on the marijuana trade, but almost everyone else seems to have moved on. Only a handful of people were in the audience Monday for the council’s work session, moved from a smaller room to the regular council chambers in apparent anticipation of a much bigger crowd.
Existing medical marijuana dispensaries (Albany is supposed to have five, but I havent checked) are safe where they are. But state law gives cities the power to ban recreational marijuana shops, and in counties like Linn, which disapproved of Measure 91 last fall with less than 55 percent of no votes, such bans must be put to a local vote in the 2016 general election.
The state plans to start accepting rec-pot-shop license applications Jan. 4, 2016, unless a local jurisdiction has enacted a ban. So the assistant city attorney, Sean Kidd, framed the council’s choice this way (I’m paraphrasing) : Make up your mind if you want to ban rec-pot-shops pretty soon. If you ban them, you don’t have to worry about passing restrictions on the time, place and manner of operations of such shops until next fall — and not then if the voters uphold your ban in the general election.
The council talked about it Monday but reached no decision. Two councilors, Ray Kopczynski and Dick Olsen, dont want a ban. Three others, Rich Kellum, Floyd Collins and Bessie Johnson, would likely vote for one, and so would Mayor Sharon Konopa if she got the chance.
Councilor Bill Coburn might be on the fence. He said Monday he would probably vote to rescind a council ban, enacted last month, on medical dispensaries selling recreational pot, which the state allows until the end of 2016. But as to how he would vote on a ban on recreational shops, I have no clue.
There are some things the council is powerless to change. One is that possession of marijuana by adults is legal, and so is marijuana use by adults in private. Also legal is the growing of personal amounts of weed on private property out of public view.
The upshot is that even though the state limits dispensaries to 1,000 feet from any school — and the same will likely apply to recreational shops — and Albany for the most part bars dispensaries within 300 feet of residential zones, schools and private houses can in fact be surrounded on all sides by little marjuana plantations right over the fence. If that doesn’t make all the tooth-gnashing over commercial marijuana restrictions sound like a waste of time, it should. (hh)