SEASIDE — The Seaside City Council passed legislation allowing medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits, but councilors plan to tackle a new amendment that would ban dispensaries from the downtown core.
At a meeting Monday, the council voted 5-2 to amend the city’s business license ordinance, which prohibits unlawful, illegal or prohibited businesses, and create a new chapter to set restrictions for how, when and where dispensaries can operate. Mayor Don Larson and City Councilor Dana Phillips cast the dissenting votes. The ordinance will go into effect 30 days from Monday.
The new section provides legal definitions for marijuana, dispensary, cardholders and license and requires all dispensaries to be registered in accordance with state law. Registration by the Oregon Health Authority, however, does not guarantee a dispensary is permitted to operate under local municipal regulations.
The restrictions in the chapter are meant to supplement those outlined by the Oregon Health Authority’s Medical Marijuana Program, which disallow dispensaries from being located less than 1,000 feet from a school or one another. Some of the operational requirements include: a new license must be obtained each year; no sale or other distribution of marijuana shall occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.; and dispensaries cannot distribute marijuana or marijuana-infused products free of charge. Dispensaries only can locate in areas zoned commercial.
During the final public comment section, Seaside resident Tim Tolan read a letter from Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, which said he was not asked for input as the city crafted the ordinance. Marquis, according to the letter, believes many people without qualifying medical conditions are obtaining marijuana through the medical program. The letter also posed the question of how much market saturation Clatsop County can handle. According to the health authority’s website, Astoria has three facilities licensed to sell marijuana to cardholders. No other surrounding cities have licensed dispensaries. Clatsop County had 676 patient registrants as of April 1.
Mark Tolan, owner of Seaside Vacation Homes, restated concerns he previously voiced at the council’s April 27 meeting. He does not believe there is any legislation requiring municipalities to grant business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.
“Marijuana doesn’t make this city safer,” he said, adding, “the consequences of this drug is addiction.”
The legislation, he believes, is a public statement the council does not trust the medical bodies that influence federal public health policies, which currently label marijuana a Schedule I drug, the same class as heroin and LSD. The council should not feel obligated, he said, to legalize and license medical marijuana dispensaries just because of the forward progress made so far. Banning dispensaries, he added, would not tread on the rights of an Oregonian to do what they want in their own home but “keeps the industry of addiction out of our town.”
Tiffany Williams, of Astoria, countered she believes locally legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries will actually help mitigate the black market.
“It would be an improvement,” she said. “You would not make things worse.”
Lois Larson, Mayor Larson’s wife, spoke as a private citizen and expressed apprehension about allowing a dispensary in the downtown core. Many of the councilors expressed a similar concern.
Councilor Jay Barber suggested crafting an amendment that would restrict dispensaries from operating within the boundaries of the city’s Downtown Maintenance District, which expands from Roosevelt Drive, along Broadway and Avenue A to the Turnaround.
Phillips, along with Larson, voted against passing the legislation. Phillips voiced concern that neither the council nor the Seaside Planning Commission got input from Seaside Police Chief Dave Ham to hear his thoughts.
“We cannot make a hasty decision about this, because we’re setting a precedent,” she said.
The City Council cannot pass an amendment on the ordinance until it goes into effect, but they directed city staff to start preparing a draft so it can be considered once 30 days have passed. Steve Geiger, whose business, Highway 420 on South Roosevelt Drive, is registered as a medical marijuana dispensary with the state, thanked the council members for the work they had done mulling over the topic, taking public comment and approving an ordinance.
At the meeting, the council also passed a resolution to establish a fee for medical marijuana dispensary license applications and background checks. The fee for the person who applies for the license and is legally responsible for the facility is $100 and each additional employee or volunteer will be charged $50 for their application and background check.