Albany’s city charter requires four votes on the city council for any action. Twice now, the second time on Monday, Councilman Dick Olsen has made himself scarce, preventing the enactment of severe restrictions on the possible location of recreational marijuana businesses, limits that he opposes. The deadlock may continue until the council finds a reasonable way out.
Three council members have favored an ordinance containing the restrictions, and three were opposed. If they all voted, Mayor Sharon Konopa would break the tie and enact the restrictions, which would bar recreational pot commerce from almost all possible sites in town. When Olsen didn’t show on Nov. 14, the ordinance failed on a vote of three yes and two no. When his chair remained empty again Monday, the result would have been the same, so no vote was even taken. Councilor Bessie Johnson was also gone, on vacation, but she participated via telephone.
Councilor Floyd Collins and the mayor grumbled about obstruction and “intentionally subverting” the council deliberation. But Ray Kopczynski, like Olsen an opponent of the restrictions, said this was the only way for two of them to uphold the wishes of the Albany electorate in the November election, which voted against a council ban on recreational pot commerce by a vote of 15,335 to 9,269.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is preparing to license recreational pot retailers next month, but applicants must first show they meet local land use codes. Three of Albany’s four medical marijuana dispensaries have asked the city for a “land use compatibility statement” so they can be licensed as recreational stores, but the city has held up providing the statement while the council still wrangling over its proposed restrictions. If the council passes nothing, the applicants will meet land use rules, and the OLCC will start processing their applications, probably right after the first of the year.
During Monday’s lengthy council discussion, it dawned on members that maybe it was not a good idea to lump all four categories of pot commerce — growing, processing, wholesale and retail — in the same restrictive ordinance. There was talk of maybe rewriting the draft ordinance with separate sections for each of the four categories. The mayor asked the staff to provide, by Wednesday’s council meeting, information on the regulation of outdoor grows.
Here’s another suggestion, from an editorial standpoint: State law allows cities to make “reasonable” rules about the time, manner and place of recreational marijuana businesses. But how about treating these upstart businesses, already heavily regulated by the OLCC licensing process, as regular businesses? They would the be subject to city rules on land use, parking, fire safety, noise, odor, lighting, signage, hours and various other things, the same as every other business. Producers would be limited to areas where agriculture is allowed. Processors and wholesalers could go in zones meant for those lines of business. And retailers could set up in retail zones if they can build or find a space.
Wouldn’t that be the most reasonable approach? (hh)