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March 21, 2014
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Editorial: Impose pot dispensary moratorium, but lift it early

It’s possible no one’s happy with the Oregon Legislature’s decisions on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Medical marijuana cardholders and the entrepreneurs who want to serve them feel like they’ve been misled.

And now city and county governments are being accused of trying to restrict residents from obtaining their medicine.

What everyone needs is a little patience.

Last August, it appeared medical marijuana advocates got a breakthrough. They convinced the Legislature to pass a bill allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. For the first time since medical marijuana was legalized in Oregon in 1998, patients would be able to buy the drug at a dispensary. Previously, they had to grow it themselves or find a caregiver who would grow it for them — apparently that can be challenging for those without green thumbs.

Even though applications for dispensaries would not be taken in March, those who’d been waiting for this opportunity began preparing to open shops.

But cities and county governments said, “Not so fast.” They wanted to have some direction from the state on where these shops could be located, besides the restriction limiting them to more than 1,000 feet from a school or 1,000 feet from each other.

Last week, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed the bill that gives cities and counties until May 1 to institute a one-year ban on dispensaries, buying each some time to decide what they want to allow in their jurisdictions.

Ideally, the legislation passed last August would have had more clarity, so we could have avoided this confusion.

Now cities have to decide how long they will leave would-be dispensary operators in limbo.

The Roseburg City Council on Monday night will decide if a moratorium will go into effect in Douglas County’s largest city. Myrtle Creek, Winston, Sutherlin, Oakland and the Douglas County commissioners will follow.

Because cities have just learned in recent weeks of the number of applications in their boundaries, it makes sense that they need time to hear from their residents before making a decision.

They need to balance their interests in being business-friendly with keeping all of their residents safe. They have a right to be cautious because medical marijuana-growing operations have attracted criminal activity in the past. That’s likely one reason dispensaries are required to have extensive security systems.

We respect the city of Roseburg’s right to impose the moratorium while councilors learn of the many regulations placed upon dispensaries by the Oregon Health Authority, and decide if they want to impose more.

If councilors want to appease those who thought they’d be opening for business any day, they could agree to a shorter time frame for developing regulations and then lift the moratorium long before May 1, 2015. Until then, medical marijuana cardholders should be able to get their marijuana the same way they did before the dispensary legislation passed.

Would-be entrepreneurs have learned a lesson — starting a new business often seems to be affected by more costs and rules than anyone expects.


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The News-Review Updated Mar 23, 2014 12:04AM Published Mar 23, 2014 12:04AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.