A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Rift averted; pot ban passes

Written December 7th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Councilman Bill Coburn saved the council some grief with his marijuana vote.

Councilman Bill Coburn saved the council some grief with his marijuana vote.

Albany is banning recreational marijuana sales after all, for a year anyway. And Councilman Bill Coburn Monday rescued fellow Councilor Ray Kopczynski from causing what might have been lingering bitterness on the council over how the marijuana issue fared.

Coburn was against an ordinance to ban recreational pot sales pending an election next November. But he voted for it Monday night anyway, with the result that the ban was enacted on a 4-1 vote. Had he stuck with his preliminary no vote of last week, the ordinance would have failed because Kopczynski went through with his intention to abstain. Had Coburn not flipped, the result would have been 3-1, which would have deprived Mayor Sharon Konopa from casting the tie-break for the ban. Council rules require four votes to enact anything.

When Kopczynski last week unveiled his intention to block the vote by abstaining, backers of the ordinance made clear what they thought of the maneuver — they considered it a dirty trick, though no one used those words — and the air was thick with acrimony.

Coburn told me after the meeting Monday night that he changed his vote to prevent any bitterness over the outcome. His vote change was a surprise to me. I think it was a surprise to Kopczynski as well. If he had known what was coming, he might not have ventured the abstention, a move so rare on the council that I can’t remember another case.

As expected, Councilors Rick Kellum, Floyd Collins and Bessie Johnson backed the ban. Dick Olsen voted no.

The ordinance in effect now — or as soon as the mayor signs it — bars retail stores of recreational marijuana within the city limits, along with wholesale businesses, producers and processors. Linn County and other cities in the county have passed similar laws. As required by state law, these bans will be on the ballot in the November 2016 general election. Coburn told me he thinks Albany voters will overturn it.

Looking ahead to that possibility, the council Wednesday talked about wanting to get going on drafting restrictions on time, manner and place of marijuana businesses. And, City Manger Wes Hare reminded them, don’t forget the option of enacting a 3 percent sales tax on recreational weed. (hh)

POSTSCRIPT: Kopczynski emailed me after this story appeared that he did not know Coburn had changed his mind. “Water under the bridge now,” he added. “It was a good fight. I had no more cards to play.”


9 responses to “Rift averted; pot ban passes”

  1. Robert Kahn says:

    Coburn becomes another politician that votes against what we voted for. Now we need to vote him out along with the other four. If they choose not listen to our votes, we now choose not to listen to them.

  2. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Interesting commentary… In no way were any of us (nor the body politic especially) needing “rescue.” We’re all adults. While freely admitting some of the comments at last Wednesday’s council meeting did sting a bit, there’s the old adage of getting out of the kitchen if one can’t stand the heat. Moreover, as I stated at the end of last night’s meeting, it was simply “irrational exuberance” at the time. Nothing more. No rescue was warranted…

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Coburn now has the well earned label as an unethical political flip-flopper.

    From an ethical standpoint, it is not OK to change a long-held position based on political expediency – to prevent perceived “political bitterness” within the council. The shift was not based on Coburn learning new evidence about the recreational sale of pot. The shift was not based on Coburn reaching an honest compromise to the proposed policy.

    Coburn simply threw principle overboard and sold out in the name of emotion. He didn’t want to piss off the other councilors. A completely unethical action.

    But in this apathetic city there will probably be no consequence. That is truly sad.

    p.s. I love the little jab at the end about the tax. When you scratch the surface, it always reveals the highest motivation at city hall.

  4. tom cordier says:

    thanks to Bill’s courage, pot is kept in the not-in-my city category.kudos to the gang of four.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      “pot is kept in the not-in-my city category”

      Go back and read Hasso’s previous comments on this issue.

      “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.”

      The biggest thing a ban does is apparently disappoint Wes Hare. He can’t get his fingers on the 3% tax. That revenue will go to Corvallis.

  5. Justin says:

    Amazing job everyone! It’s great to see the council go against what the majority of voters actually want. I have no doubt it’ll get over turned next year… but I hope these politicians get kicked out too (and no, it’s not just about weed).

    Coburn, great job for not having enough spine to actually stick with your vote.

    In the end, all you are doing is prohibiting business. We can still smoke and we can still grow, so I’m not really sure what you are trying to accomplish. I’ll happily drive to Corvallis and give them my money – but it is still disappointing.

  6. Bill Kapaun says:

    Apparently, “someone” is willing to give up their morals to “get along”.

  7. Bob Woods says:

    morals: a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.

    NONE of you are qualified to attack anyone as betraying their morals.

    You folks ought to bunk with Trump. You’re all cut from the same rotten cloth.


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