By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
The city’s Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force has been established.
Just don’t expect many meetings for the group.
The task force held its first meeting last Wednesday, March 19, at Keizer Civic Center.
City councilor Dennis Koho, who chaired the initial meeting, passed around a calendar and had the seven task force members indicate what days would not work for a meeting.
“Looking at the calendar, not many dates line up,” Koho said towards the end of the meeting. “It looks like Tuesday (April) 22 and maybe the 29th of April.”
As such, April 22 at 7 p.m. was set as the date for a public hearing on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries in Keizer. The topic has been a hot one throughout Oregon recently due to new state laws allowing for the formation of dispensaries.
Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, gave a rundown of rules regarding dispensaries at the city, county and state level. House Bill 3460 and Senate Bill 1531 both went into affect earlier this month.
“When the implementation of this rule started March 1, there was a lot of activity that occurred,” Brown said. “A lot of cities moved to ban dispensaries outright. The rest of us struggled with what the appropriate response would be. It takes time to go through the process. We established in Keizer a 150-day moratorium for any dispensary. That gives us time to assemble a task force and come up with any regulations applicable.”
The task force is to make recommendations to the Keizer City Council by May 6.
In part, Brown hopes the task force can help determine what level of control the city should take.
“Some (jurisdictions) are maintaining that local control allows them to prohibit dispensaries,” Brown said. “I don’t believe that is the current prevailing opinion.”
So what does city staff feel should be done with the issue?
“Proceed with caution,” Brown said. “It’s very difficult to start with few restrictions and then later add more significant restrictions. It would be far better to start with significant restrictions and, if proven to have limited negative impact, then reduce those restrictions after so proven.”
While some entities such as Keizer have had a wait-and-see approach, Brown noted Marion County leaders have taken a different approach.
“Marion County has been very proactive,” he said. “They have a structure where dispensaries are banned, but they do have exemptions. Resolution 14R-4 opposes the legalization of marijuana and states medical marijuana facilities are contrary to their responsibilities and are detrimental to public peace, health and safety.”
Task force member Ted Anagnos wanted to know the city’s authority within Keizer versus the county’s authority.
“The county has control over anything not incorporated into the city,” Brown said. “We have a city charter which gives us the same rights, in most cases, as the county. We have a right to establish local rules.”
Task force member Shilo Robinson noted what happens at Keizer’s PGN (Patient Grower Network).
“It’s a place for people to be educated,” Robinson said. “You have to educate people, to let them know how it works. It’s cannabis; it’s a medicine. It’s a safe place also to consume.”
John Honey, task force member and also the McNary High School principal, wants to know about how far dispensaries in other cities can be to places besides schools.
“What kind of places will attract our students and where are they going?” Honey said. “Our students are mobile. It’s like herding cats. I want to see what others around Keizer are considering.”
Koho suggested the April 22 meeting would be for public comment, with the task force using the meeting a week later to come up with recommendations to send to council.