At some point, Roseburg will have to answer this question: Does the city welcome marijuana stores?
So far, the city has nibbled at the question, but that won’t do forever.
Events are moving ahead that will force Roseburg, and every city and county, to pinpoint its tolerance for a drug that federal health officials call a major public health problem.
Like many cities, Roseburg grabbed the chance to ban medical marijuana dispensaries for one year. The moratoriums expire May 1. Presumably, the Oregon Health Authority by then will have a firmer grasp on regulating dispensaries.
We’ll see. Recently, the state official overseeing medical marijuana dispensaries met with operators who still have lots of questions, like: What do you do with marijuana that tests positive for harmful chemicals?
Return it to the grower, suggested the official, who was then surprised to hear marijuana growers sometimes disappear. It’s not a problem encountered with, say, potato farmers.
Meanwhile, in Roseburg, an advisory committee appointed by the City Council has recommended dispensaries be at least 1,000 feet from schools, 500 feet from parks and 200 feet from homes.
The proposed regulations would keep the Sky High Club from opening next to Roseburg High School, but dispensaries could still be in highly visible shopping centers.
City officials say as many as five dispensaries could fit into Roseburg and open on major streets such as Stewart Parkway, Harvard Avenue and Stephens Street.
Could Roseburg support five medical marijuana outlets? Who knows? By the end of the year, medical marijuana may no longer be a growth industry. Pot advocates have turned in signatures for an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.
If approved, the initiative would make marijuana legal statewide, but local control won’t be a moot point.
The initiative includes a provision allowing cities and counties to bar by a public vote licensed pot outlets. Dozens of Washington cities have banned marijuana sales.
Even if a local jurisdiction doesn’t prohibit licensed marijuana stores, it can still adopt “reasonable” limits on hours and where they can open.
In other words, cities and counties will have work to do.
Policy-makers can start by declaring how they view marijuana.
Should marijuana be regulated like alcohol or like any other legal product? If the answer is “yes,” the barest restrictions should apply. The city of Roseburg routinely grants liquor licenses. It would be inconsistent to limit pot outlets to a handful.
A “no” answer leads to more questions. Is marijuana more detrimental than alcohol? If so, how strict should the limits on hours and locations be? Should the city allow licensed marijuana dealers at all?
The questions touch on health, public safety and commerce. There are bigger issues here than zoning amendments.