McMINNVILLE, Oregon — One Oregon county that has pledged a moratorium on pot dispensaries is closer to making that ban a reality.
The pot shops were made legal statewide by the Legislature last year. Rules have been drawn up, and stores can apply for dispensary licenses beginning March 3.
But some Yamhill County commissioners fear that loopholes in the law will allow the dispensaries to operate as wholesale drug-distribution outposts, the News-Register reported (http://bit.ly/1hlxMv6 ).
The commissioners ordered staff to prepare an ordinance would place a one-year moratorium on marijuana dispensaries in rural areas under county jurisdiction.
Their concerns are echoed in other communities around the state, which are girding themselves to be the equivalent of "dry" counties that ban alcohol sales. In Myrtle Creek, the town's police chief and mayor oppose dispensaries within city limits. In Medford, the City Council made a rule change to say that business licenses could be revoked for violating the federal prohibition on the drug.
Yamhill County Commissioner Kathy George said she supports a one-year moratorium to allow the Legislature to work through amendments to the law.
"I hesitate to open this up as a county, not because I want to keep people who have medical needs for marijuana from getting it, but because I am concerned about the lapses in the law," George said. "There are a lot of questions this law has left unanswered."
Oregon law has allowed for medical marijuana since 1998, but there has been a catch for patients: They could legally possess the drug, but they had to find their own producer or grow it themselves. For patients unwilling or unable to do so, that left options that included the black market.
Marijuana advocates pitched the dispensary law as a course correction. The pot shops, they said, provide safe access to patients and create a viable system of reimbursement to the growers and a more accurate market for marijuana prices by taking pot out of the hands of illicit dealers.
Oregon voters rejected dispensaries in 2010, but legislators passed a bill this year and set in motion a nine-month review process during which the laws implementing the dispensaries would be determined by a committee that includes law enforcement, marijuana advocates, botanists and legislators. In less than five months, applications are set to start coming in.
Cities and counties have at least two options for keeping dispensaries out of their backyards. Like Medford, they can choose not to issue business licenses to dispensaries. Or they can take the matter to federal court, where marijuana is considered a prohibited substance.
Information from: The News-Review, http://www.nrtoday.com