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)