Of the Keizertimes

There are some complex rules when it comes to recreational marijuana in Oregon.

One of the simple rules would seem to be marijuana can’t be sold within a certain distance from schools. The state law calls for at least 1,000 feet distance, while in Keizer the distance is 1,500 feet. In addition, such a facility can not be within 1,000 feet of a public building and has to be at least 1,000 feet away from another dispensary.

At last week’s Keizer City Council meeting, however, the seemingly simple school question grew more complex: how exactly do you define a school?

City Attorney Shannon Johnson said the question was raised because a person is looking to open a medical marijuana facility in Keizer within 1,500 feet of the Tangled Ends Hair Academy at 136 Chemawa Road N.

“The background is what is a public or private school?” Johnson said. “The hair salon is a school on Chemawa, which is not the type of school envisioned here (in the city ordinance). Our definition is broad, while the state law includes career schools with minors. We do have someone within 1,500 feet of the hair salon interested.”

Johnson’s proposed amendment to the city’s medical marijuana facility permit process called for no such facility within 1,500 feet of any public or private elementary or secondary school, as well as any career school attended primarily by minors.

Mayor Cathy Clark acknowledged she raised the question when someone asked her about the topic.

“It prompted me to think that we have career schools and will it impact our zoning?” Clark said. “I didn’t realize someone else was already looking at property.”

Johnson emphasized the discussion was about medical marijuana facilities, not recreational marijuana which is now legal in Oregon but with a number of restrictions.

Councilor Amy Ripp asked if any research had been done to know the average age of students at the hair academy.

“I haven’t done any research,” Johnson responded. “I have a hard time believing this career school is primarily attended by minors.”

Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, noted when the medical marijuana facility task force met last year, there were maps showing the distances from schools.

“We never included the property where Tangled Ends is,” Brown said.

Councilors unanimously approved the amendment to the ordinance.

Johnson noted afterwards the nature of the topic first brought up by the mayor changed over time.

“It started as a hypothetical, but it became reality,” he said. “We had to see what was meant by schools.”

Johnson said the 1,500 feet distance is from the boundary of the property, not the actual building. While he didn’t specify the location being looked at, the relative proximity of Tangled Ends to McNary High School to the south on Chemawa and public buildings (Keizer Fire District and Keizer Civic Center) to the north on Chemawa would seem to indicate the property is somewhere on River Road.