By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
This spring, a moratorium was established to not allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Keizer until May 2015.
The moratorium, like ones passed by various cities and counties around Oregon, was designed to allow time for the Keizer City Council to finalize local rules for medical marijuana, which was made legal in Oregon earlier this year.
Councilors established a medical marijuana dispensaries task force, which met three times and sent a list of recommendations to council for approval. Those 10 items were discussed by councilors at their June 16 meeting.
City Attorney Shannon Johnson noted he and Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, attended a League of Oregon Cities conference on medical marijuana.
Johnson said a partial list of concerns not addressed by state legislators at the conference included how to track and monitor grow receipts, how to provide adequate police inspections, requiring minimum distances from residences and regulating aspects of the businesses not addressed by state statutes, including extraction, grow sites, discharge of pollutants, regulating security measures and whether to limit the number of stores.
“There are two general issues,” Johnson said. “One is procedural. This issue is whether council wishes to schedule the matter for additional public hearings. The council should decide initially whether they want to hold additional public hearings or instead move directly towards adopting regulations.”
If there are no additional public hearings, Johnson said the next issue is whether the council wants to move forward now with regulations or wait to see what other cities do in that regard.
“At this point, though some general interest has been expressed, staff is not aware of any businesses that have available sites and are ready to open,” Johnson said. “Therefore, though delaying the regulations should be avoided, I am not sure that waiting for additional review would cause undue hardship. There are advantages to waiting for additional input from the League of Oregon Cities and other jurisdictions.”
According to Johnson, another issue is a possible November ballot measure.
“If that type of ballot measure qualifies for the ballot and passes in November, it will likely undo all the work with regard to the draft regulations,” Johnson said.
Councilors had questions about some of the recommendations from the task force, with one example being a requirement for all people working at a dispensary to have background checks done.
“How do we monitor that?” council president Joe Egli asked.
Johnson said that will be in the licensing process, with mayor Lore Christopher noting if the checks aren’t done, the license will be revoked.
“That’s more work for staff,” councilor Jim Taylor said. “You have to check each person out. There needs to be a fee when you hire someone.”
Jeff Kuhns, deputy chief with the Keizer Police Department, wants his office to be equal to state inspectors in regards to dispensaries.
“There are only four inspectors in the entire state of Oregon for this,” Kuhns said. “If we hear place A is dispensing illegally, we would have to reach through with red tape and have a person come four months later. We want to have relationships so we can get in and look at the stuff, then be done. We want to go down and work with the owners.”
Kuhns said the KPD gets limited information currently.
“We have a lot of growers in Keizer,” he said. “However, that information is not divulged to the Keizer Police Department by the state of Oregon unless we call. We can verify the address of a grow. We do not get maps or names.”
Councilors also had discussion about minors being prohibited from dispensaries. The task force went with the state’s definition of a minor being 18 years old, while city staff recommended the age of 21. A minor would need a caregiver to get the medical marijuana. Brown said there would be no minimum age on a medical marijuana card.
“I’m still trying to figure why a 14-year-old can go in with a caregiver,” Taylor said. “I have a 15-year-old granddaughter. So I can go in (a store) and buy a fifth (of alcohol) while she’s there with me. Sorry, but there should be no underage person in there.”
Johnson noted a patient has to be present at the time of purchase.
“But I see your point councilor Taylor, it is a bit ridiculous,” he said.
Kuhns said it’s his understanding minors can go in to a point, but can’t see the actual product.
“This whole thing is ridiculous,” Taylor grumbled. “It’s like hiding the girly magazine under the counter.”
Councilors voted unanimously to direct staff to move forward on draft regulations consistent with task force recommendations as amended during the discussion and to not hold additional public hearings.
In other business June 16:
• The Thomas D. Keizur statue in front of Keizer Civic Center should be lit soon. It was noted during the June 9 Keizer Points of Interest Committee (KPIC) Tour there are places for lights, but they’re not being used.
Jerry McGee, who was part of the tour that night, brought the issue to the attention of Pat Taylor in Keizer Public Works.
“Pat was curious, so he went to check it out,” McGee said. “The bulbs in all five were blown out. In the fifth was the most likely cause: a short. The short has since been fixed. The bulbs have been ordered and will arrive soon. It’s great news for us going by every night. It’s a beautiful statue, just a beautiful work of art.”
McGee also suggested putting in a spotlight on a light post about 20 feet away from the statue, to help light it better. Money for that would come out of the maintenance fund set up when the statue was first put in.
After being given approval to do the lighting, McGee asked for something else regarding the statue.
“Could there be one other assignment?” he asked. “It’s due for a pressure wash. It also needs a wax, on a good summer day. I know how to wax. It should be pressure washed every three to four years.”
Christopher made a reference to that KPIC Tour, when council president Joe Egli climbed the statue to get a piece of debris off the top of Keizur’s head.
“Joe will help you with the pressure washing,” the mayor said. “Don’t let those seniors go up the ladder.”
• Public hearing signs in Keizer could be getting a different look. Lori Koho, the wife of current councilor and former mayor Dennis Koho, showed a copy of the sign used to notify the public of the recent hearing regarding the “cow park” at Chemawa Road and Verda Lane.
“I’m here to ask you to consider signage for public hearings,” she said. “I saw that a public hearing was proposed and thought that was nice. But I couldn’t see the rest because it was too small. You need to consider how they are posted. If you’re driving, there’s no way to know what is going on.”
Johnson said staff will look at making at least the dates on such signs bigger.
• Keizer’s Finance Department kept a streak going. City manager Chris Eppley praised the department for an award from the state for financial stewardship.
“I’m pleased to say we’ve received this award 15 years in a row,” said assistant controller Tim Wood, accepting on behalf of absent Finance director Susan Gahlsdorf.
Christopher couldn’t resist a quip.
“I’ve been mayor for 14 years,” she said. “There must be some correlation!”