MADRAS, Ore. - Nearly 50 Oregon cities and numerous counties have adopted temporary moratoriums barring medical marijuana dispensaries until next year, when lawmakers again take up the issue. But more than a dozen cities have voted not to do so – and Jefferson County joined them, in a split vote Wednesday.
Lawmakers gave local governments until May 1 to enact such temporary bans, which can only stay in effect for a year.
County commissioners held a public hearing at which they heard from several people opposed to the moratorium – and Sheriff Jim Adkins, who supported it.
Commissioners Mike Ahern and Wayne Fording then voted against enacting the moratorium, while John Hatfield voted for moving ahead with it.
Ahern noted that most commercial property in the county lies within Madras, which is scheduled to vote on a proposed moratorium on April 22nd.
"County commercial (zoned land) is very tiny – we don't have much of it," Ahern said.
But that wasn't why he voted against the moratorium, nor was he swayed by the testimony: "I'd made up my mind" before that, Ahern told NewsChannel 21.
"I'm not going to use Jefferson County planning rules and regulations, and make them more strict to stop a dispensary," Ahern said. "I'm a limited government kind of person. … The state has decided medical marijuana is legal. I'm not going to try to trip them up. There won't be one less bit of pot used (under a moratorium.)"
"It's mostly older people that use that medical marijuana – they need it, they want it, and the shouldn't have to go to some hoodlum's garage to get it," Ahern added.
La Pine city councilors, meanwhile, spent 90 minutes Wednesday evening discussing a draft moratorium's details and decided to make their decision after a formal public hearing on Wednesday, April 23rd at 6 p.m., said City Manager Rick Allen.
Four people spoke at Wednesday night's meeting, two who want to open dispensaries in La Pine and have received or applied for state licenses, Allen said. Councilors spoke at length with the two, who have leased spaces in "strip developments," Allen said. One presented a petition with 240 signatures, 201 in favor, 29 opposed and 10 unsure.
Another person spoke in favor of medical marijuana due to her painful medical conditions.
Allen said councilors had questions about their options, such as limiting the number of dispensaries and whether the moratorium could be amended later.
"People should plan to attend the hearing to make their feelings heard," Allen said.
A list from the League of Oregon Cities shows that 48 of the 242 cities in Oregon have approved moratoriums, while 14 have taken it up and rejected the idea, from Klamath Falls and Brookings to Depoe Bay, Mill City, Springfield and Moro.