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February 25, 2014
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Editorial: Towns should be able to decide what happens in city limits

Cities and towns often put a lot of thought and energy into the image its residents want to project.

In Douglas County, there are a dozen incorporated communities. None wants to be considered interchangeable with others.

Winston has put out banners to identify with its main tourist attraction, Wildlife Safari. Reedsport touts its connection to the coast. Canyonville is known regionally as the city that hosts Seven Feathers Casino Resort. Oakland trades on its Victorian-era buildings, while Elkton promotes its wineries, ties to Fort Umpqua and the butterflies that flock to its multi-faceted community center.

Conversely, it’s understandable that inhabitants would prefer not to be known as “the place where (fill in the blank with something undesirable) happens.”

That’s what Myrtle Creek is now facing.

In September, the paper’s editorial board cited various cultural and improvement projects in the city as evidence that civic pride was flourishing. Just a month later, Myrtle Creek joined Medford in voicing opposition to the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries within their respective boundaries.

One apparently short-lived dispensary still listed online at potlocator.com did business on South Old Pacific Highway. Myrtle Creek Mayor Dan Jocoy has said the City Council is united in preventing another dispensary from opening and intends to “do everything we can to make it difficult to have those dispensaries in the town.”

Jocoy’s announcement earlier this month was linked to news that an Oregon Senate committee had weakened a bill to let cities and counties restrict medical marijuana dispensaries. Now it turns out that Myrtle Creek may have allies in its struggle. A House committee on Monday moved to allow local governments to ban dispensaries in their areas. The measure will go the full House, and, if passed, back to the Senate. Its fate there is uncertain.

We understand the concerns of Eugene Sen. Floyd Prozanski, who has expressed reservations about granting municipalities power to ban any state-approved business. Cities have dealt with this issue before.

In attempting to prohibit businesses viewed by many as morally objectionable — card rooms and so-called gentlemen’s clubs come to mind — cities have bumped up against higher authorities that dictated otherwise. Roseburg learned this when a couple of strip bars opened on Diamond Lake Boulevard and Cass Avenue in the 1990s despite disapproval by neighbors and city councilors.

Sure, medical pot dispensaries have been legal since August. But the product they dispense continues to be an illegal substance for anyone without a medical marijuana card. And even those who do are ingesting a drug that American Medical Association delegates in November voted should not be legalized.

And while enterprising Girl Scouts in Phoenix and San Francisco have boosted cookie sales by setting up booths outside pot dispensaries, each of those cities has myriad other activities to keep them from being dubbed “places to go when you have weed-induced munchies.”

Myrtle Creek, like other small towns, should be able to protect the character its residents regard as representative of their values. We hope the House and Senate agree. It would be a shame to see that autonomy floating away on clouds of pungent smoke.

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The News-Review Updated Feb 25, 2014 11:12AM Published Feb 25, 2014 11:08AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.