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By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

First come, first served.

That’s the gist of a ruling Keizer City Councilors made Monday night in regard to an amendment for the recreational marijuana retailer permit ordinance.

The ordinance was adopted by councilors at their previous meeting on Jan. 19. For the most part the city followed state guidelines and regulations.

There was one key difference, however.

“The ordinance requires a retailer to be located 1,000 feet from another retailer or a medical marijuana facility,” city attorney Shannon Johnson said. “An issue was raised regarding the possibility that two or more persons may apply within the same general area. The question then is, which one is allowed the permit?”

Johnson said an application for the city permit cannot be submitted until the applicant has received state approval, meaning the Oregon Liquor Control Commission must first issue a state retailer license. Once that is submitted, the application gets date and time stamped.

“That date/time becomes the priority date as long as the application is not later denied,” Johnson said.

The 1,000 foot gap between retailers means, unlike other cities, Keizer shouldn’t have recreational marijuana shops next to each other or across the street from each other.

Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, said there has been interest in opening such businesses in Keizer.

“We have been contacted by four individuals that want to open a shop,” Brown said. “As we understand how the state processes (applications), they will be processed in order of the production cycle. It is conceivable they will be issuing licenses in batches. We have no way to evaluate or judge that. The more fair way is the first person coming into the office with all the information, and it seems to be complete, gets a time and date stamp. That is used for priority because of the 1,000 foot rule.”

City Manager Chris Eppley provided more information about potential retailers.

“The reason we’re here tonight is at least two applicants would have facilities directly across the street from each other,” Eppley said. “We have a rule they can’t be located any closer to each other than 1,000 feet, so that we don’t have a proliferation of marijuana shops in an area. The first one in will control the 1,000 foot area. In our estimation, this is the best way to do that.”

The city permit would have to be renewed annually, which prompted a question from councilor Brandon Smith about what would happen if a retailer “disappears in the middle of the night three months in” and still has nine months left on the permit.

“If proprietor A disappears in the middle of the night and proprietor B wants to open across the street, B could call A and see if they want to give up the license. Then they can apply,” Brown said.

Councilors unanimously approved the revised ordinance.

Councilors also revisited the taxation of recreational marijuana once again. Previously, councilors had approved a 10 percent local tax on recreational marijuana. Since then, House Bill 3400 has been adopted by state legislators, which calls for a state tax of 17 percent and a local tax of no more than 3 percent.

“I want to get feedback from the council before we put it on the ballot,” Johnson said. “The 3 percent local tax would have to go to voters. It would be on the November ballot. We want to do it early in fairness to any business people might want to apply for.”

Johnson said a city’s portion of the state tax will be divided up based on how many recreational marijuana facilities are in that city, with more facilities meaning more money for the city. The city attorney also feels Keizer would struggle trying to defend the 10 percent tax being upheld when the state local limit is 3 percent.

“The Legislature has made it clear they will preempt that,” Johnson said. “I think there would be an uphill challenge to support that.”

Council president Dennis Koho, who has previously expressed being tired of dealing with the marijuana issues, did so again.

“We’ve spent so much time on this issue, we deserve the 3 percent,” Koho joked. “This is the result of some bad legislation. Now we have a hodgepodge of regulations around the state.”

Councilors unanimously approved the idea of the local option tax being sent to the ballot.