PRINEVILLE, Ore. - In a 4-3 vote on Tuesday evening, the Prineville City Council narrowly approved the first reading of a small change to the wording of the current recreational marijuana code, revisiting it to clarify its relationship with state law -- and make an even taller burden to ever allowing recreational marijuana to be sold in the city
"We passed an ordinance some time back, and we are just wordsmithing it, because the words in it were not exactly what we intended it to be," said Mayor Betty Roppe. "We are not voting on yes we will have recreational marijuana or no we won't have recreational marijuana."
The city chose to fully follow the federal law, not the state voters' recent decision, so recreational marijuana is still illegal in Prineville.
The original ordinance said if marijuana is removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Schedule 1 listing, a person then could apply to open a recreational marijuana business. The DEA has five categories for drugs, with Schedule 1 also including drugs such as heroin with no medical benefits, while Schedule 5 includes drugs like cough syrup.
"Part of the question we are grappling with, of course, is at the federal level it's illegal, and at the state level it's legal, so what do you do as a local government?" said Phil Stenbeck, the city's community development director. "If there's a change in the law at the federal level, staff was asking if they mean off Schedule 1 or did they mean off the DEA list?"
A slim majority of the council voted to require the complete removal of marijuana from all DEA listings for such a change, not just removal from Schedule 1, which tightens restrictions on recreational marijuana.
Three councilors voted against the ordinance change and brought up revisiting the topic of legalized recreational marijuana in the city.
One resident said legalizing it would allow more money to come in, to benefit services such as schools.
"I would like to see every student not have to pay for a sport in Prineville, and I want them to be able to go out to any sport they want to do," Shawn Cooper said. "If they want to do drama or art, it's funded. And if that is a way to fund it, and people are going to do it anyway, let's do something good with it."
Another resident, Geoff York, said added restrictions can end up hurting kids more.
"Black market dealers don't check ID, and there's no oversight whatsoever," York said. "OLCC dispensaries have extreme oversight, to a point where they're safer than most banks."
One city councilor said since she was not a part of the original vote, she did extensive research on the subject and is concerned that people will continue to buy marijuana on the black market, not knowing where it came from.
"The accessibility is within 18 miles, so I am concerned about the economic factor," said Councilor Teresa Rodriguez. "I am also concerned about taking something that is legal within the state and criminalizing people who are not criminals."
Rodriguez said she hopes someone will take the initiative to get recreational marijuana on the ballot for a citywide vote. For now, the code will be more closely aligned with federal law.