Times are changing and the Sutherlin City Council is looking to catch up.

The City Council is considering lifting the city’s ban on medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries, which have been restricted from popping up since voters prohibited marijuana businesses from setting up in 2016.

Statewide, marijuana has been legal since 2014. And the marijuana industry is booming across the state, with many rural communities receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue from recreational businesses. In all, Oregon collected about $95 million in sales taxes from marijuana sales in fiscal year 2018, according to The Register-Guard.

In other words, there’s a lot of money floating around that municipalities, such as Sutherlin, are missing out on.

Fifty-three percent of Sutherlin voters approved of the ban, but as councilors noted last week, public opinion on the issue may have changed since then. City Councilor Seth Vincent even brought anecdotal evidence to the meeting, saying he’s talked with people who were staunchly against the opening of marijuana businesses a few years ago, but are more open to the idea now.

Whatever your thoughts about the product, marijuana isn’t going anywhere.

The entire West Coast, including Nevada, Colorado, Michigan, and several East Coast states have already legalized recreational marijuana, and even more have approved of its decriminalization. But even if you’re against the social aspect of marijuana, there’s a solid economic reason to support the ability for local businesses to sell it.

Which is something Tom Boggs, a councilor who said he’s never been a proponent of marijuana, said at the meeting.

“It is here, there’s nothing we can do about it,” so the city might as well allow shops to set up and benefit from the tax.

“I think we can tell the people that’s one way to prevent us from digging deeper into (their) pockets for needs that we have coming down the road,” Boggs said.

Dropping the ban that would be a smart move for Sutherlin, even if the public maintains its disdain for the product, because it’s time for Sutherlin to catch up.

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