» Pro-pot talk falls on deaf ears


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Pro-pot talk falls on deaf ears

Written September 24th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Recreational marijuana supporters came prepared with visual aids.

Recreational marijuana supporters came prepared with visual aids.

If you thought you would be able to legally buy some recreational marijuana in Albany starting Oct. 1, forget it. State law would allow it, but four members of the city council Wednesday said no way.

Marijuana advocates filled the room, and about two dozen spoke to the council, but they might have well have stayed home. Councilors voted 4-2 and enacted an ordinance that bars medical marijuana dispensaries from selling small individual amounts of recreational weed from Oct. 1 through the end of 2016. After that, recreational pot can’t be sold at dispensaries but will be available at retail stores to be licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The council tally for the ban was the same as in a preliminary vote two weeks ago: Kellum, Collins, Coburn and Johnson in favor and Kopczynski and Olsen against.

From council chatter later in the session, after the audience left, it was obvious that this wasn’t the last restriction on marijuana sales the council will consider and likely pass. Among the ideas kicked around: A buffer longer than the presently required 300 feet between medical dispensaries and residential zones; barring retail stores — once they’re allowed by the state — not just within 1,000 feet from schools and each other as the state law says but also keeping them some distance from parks and other places where children might hang out; and removing the 300-foot-buffer exemption for new dispensaries in industrial zones.

Also Wednesday, Mayor Sharon Konopa asked the council to deny a dispensary application for property near the Santiam-Pacific “triangle” even though it’s more than 300 feet from the nearest residential zone. She argued that the city could prohibit it there because a commercially zoned part of the otherwise residential property is closer than 300 feet. But the council majority refused to go along after City Attorney Jim Delapoer said the property’s buyers had talked about suing and he would find a denial difficult to defend in court.

During the discussion of the recreational sales ban at dispensaries, I heard only two or three original arguments from the speakers addressing the council. One estimated there were about 7,000 marijuana users in Albany, which meant that grass was not exactly hard to get now, so what was the council doing other than prolonging and enriching the  black market? And allowing recreational sales now would help all those potential patients who could benefit from medical weed but can’t get it because they can’t afford to obtain medical marijuana cards.

Another said the ban meant mainly that marijuana in Albany will continue to be sold from apartments and parks and other places. But none of that cut any ice with the majority of four. (hh)

The council chambers were pretty full during marijuana testimony.

The council chambers were pretty full during the marijuana testimony and discussion.

Afterward the place was nearly empty as the council met past 11 p.m.

Afterward the place was nearly empty as the council met past 11 p.m.

17 responses to “Pro-pot talk falls on deaf ears”

  1. Jill Morgan says:

    This Council has its head in the sand… Do they really think that banning places from selling of rec marijuana is going to stop use? Personally it won’t matter to me as I don’t smoke it. But neither do I drink alcohol, but don’t advocate closing all points of sale for it just because of my personal choice not to drink. Past time to get new people in leadership starting with local government that will follow the people’s will and not their own personal agendas.

  2. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Full-on recreational sales of marijuana in Albany WILL still happen albeit not quite as soon as many of us would like. (This whole issue could have been made moot well over a generation ago, but that’s whater under the bridge.) The arguments made about the “safety” of the children are quite nonsensical in view of the ability of kids currently to get it faster and easier than they can get a bottle of beer, but I digress…

  3. Shannon Ballard says:

    Looking at the attendees of this meeting I see a wonderfully diverse population of my beloved home town. Please accept my appreciation for all who attended. Thank you for taking the time out of your lives to participate in our town’s local government. Shame on you council members. You have failed this town. These people came to you. Your people came to you! They came to your emergency meeting. An emergency meeting that was, I guess, legal albeit not necessarily ethical. They came on a work/school night. They wanted their voices heard but you did not listen. You came in with your decision already locked in. Are you so arrogant that you believe your ideas for our town are superior? In front of you last night were the people of your Wards. So many people you did not have enough seating for them all. Obviously this is an important issue to your people. I only hope that you will reflect on this meeting and ask yourselves why would you let such a valuable opportunity to communicate slip through your fingers?

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      “legal albeit not necessarily ethical”

      “wanted their voices heard but you did not listen”

      “so arrogant that you believe your ideas for our town are superior”

      “let such a valuable opportunity to communicate slip through your fingers”

      Shannon, your comment is spot on in numerous ways. The issue here is the council’s tone-deaf behavior. The specific topic is rec sales of cannabis, but it could be numerous other topics that have come before the council. As topics change over time, the constant that keeps surfacing is this council’s arrogance.

      The sad part is at election time not much changes. Few qualified candidates show interest. Voter apathy is widespread. The same tired faces and attitudes get re-elected.

      Not much will change in Albany until more residents do what the crowd did last night – become active. Activity, even something as simple as voting on city issues, has the potential to transform. We activated to give voters the final say on city debt and urban renewal. It can be done on other issues like local tax increases, wasteful CARA spending, and rec sales of cannabis.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “Not much will change in Albany until more residents do what the crowd did last night – become active.”

        And, as last night showed, simply being “active” may not be enough. Earlier this month, because ~18 folks complained to council about a planning decision, council re-opened an already closed public hearing – and then directed staff to find a reason to overturn the planning decision and come back to us to deny the applicant – which happened well after the dispensary issue. 18 folks from a neighborhood were able to do it, but 70 folks in the audience from across Albany and other areas (on an already approved M91 vote)? Not so much… The dichotomy & hypocrisy is very real…

        • Casey Costa says:

          Thank you Ray for your comments and for voting against the ban. It was a pleasure to meet you last night.

          What the city attorney announced last night was, “the City Council can do whatever it wants”. And that was proven.

          If anything this whole fiasco is a good explanation of why there is voter apathy. Why bother? No matter how we vote, “the City Council can do whatever it wants”… and does.

  4. Peggy Headrick says:

    How on earth can you ELECTED officials go against what the voters voted for? So now the revenue that Albany could be receiving to fix lets say our ROADS for example or go to our schools will go by the wayside again. This is pathetic. Even though I don’t use I am tired of elected officials choosing to ignore voters. If you haven’t noticed the citizens are getting tired of local state and federal public servants doing their bidding and not the bidding of the people and we are not going to stand for it.

  5. tom cordier says:

    Come on Hasso–you did not publish the down-side stats presented by APD as to the experience to date of just medical mj sales. All the pot-heads combined don’t make for good public policy
    Most of those wanting open sales think they have discovered something wonderful
    just like when tobacco was mass advertised as the embodiment of the manly lifestyle.
    The Council took the prudent step of going slow and not embracing/endorsing so we’ll have time to fully develop the down-side unintended consequences here and around the country.

    • Casey Costa says:

      Actually most of us wanting sales want to right an unjust and racially prejudiced “prohibition” on a substance that has never shown any danger to anyone – as opposed to alcohol and tobacco.

  6. Dick Olsen says:

    I asked our Officer Robert Hayes during the meeting if the onset of medicinal marijuanna had triggered a crime have. He said it hadn’t. I also asked him if young students had been loitering about the dispensaries and filching the product. He said he didn’t know of any. I would think alcohol in supermarkets might cause the worriers more concern than marijaunna dispensaries with regards to our kids if they are looking for a cause to worry about. I want to assure my constituents that I voted NO against this unfortunate. ordinance.

    • Casey Costa says:

      I also enjoyed seeing Kellum ask him questions that he had no clue of the answers. Rich thought the officer would “back him up” in his silly points, yet because they are not viable points, no data is available to provide answers.

  7. Casey Costa says:

    Thank you Hasso for attending the meeting and giving a fair and accurate reporting of the travesty that took place. It was a pleasure meeting you (I am the lady that was sitting behind you that introduced myself at the break time).

    Did you stay for the entire meeting? I recorded it so I could see what happened after I left (following the vote, as the police officer was rushing us all out of there), and the gigglefest that the council engaged in was quite shameful and also, quite telling. Although their vote and their shameful biased behavior during the meeting was also quite telling.

    Thank you again for a fair, accurate report that was up and posted by the time I went to bed last night!

  8. Bob Woods says:

    If you think that decisions by the Council should be based on the number of people who show up with a particular position, then you are marching down the road to mob rule.

    I think they made the wrong call too. But the point of a representative democracy is having the elected leaders make the decision. You can always vote them out.

    The practical effect of their decision is that folks will have to drive or take the bus to Corvallis. A minor inconvenience.

    • James Carrick says:

      And meanwhile, all the things this council fears…. will be happening right next door to the kids they say they’re trying to protect, through the black market..which will continue to thrive, just as it has for the past 50+ years.

      Don’t go looking for common sense in THIS city council. And kudos to Ray and Dick for seeing through the charade.

      • Bob Woods says:

        Which means that those kids have already been affected for the last 50 years, so the Council’s actions don’t have an effect on the status quo.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      The Albany mob consists of 9,767 voters (a majority) who said yes on M91.


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