The Winston City Council directed city staff Monday to determine the process and cost of letting voters decide whether to lift local restrictions on marijuana shops.

The city’s buffer zone laws for marijuana shops are more stringent than the state’s. Two weeks ago, the City Council held workshop to field input from the public on whether the city should lift local restrictions, which have prevented marijuana shops from opening. About 10 people provided comments for and against lifting the restrictions.

City officials say allowing marijuana shops to open might create new tax revenue sources as the city struggles to fund new projects. In April, the City Council approved a $3 per month public safety fee to fund replacing police vehicles.

While the City Council discussed voting to remove the restrictions outright, City Manager Mark Bauer said in an interview that councilors didn’t feel like they had enough information about public opinion.

“I don’t think they got a clear-cut vision of the community from the workshop with as few people we had there,” Bauer said.

Marijuana shops must be in a commercial zone and at least 1,000 feet away from schools, day cares and other dispensaries, according to Oregon law. Winston requires them to be 500 feet from churches and 200 feet from residential and parks/public reserve zoned property.

To have a measure lifting local restrictions on the Nov. 5 ballot, the city would have to publish notice of the ballot title and draft text by Aug. 17 and file the final measure with the county elections official by Sept. 5, according to the Oregon Elections Division. Bauer said will determine the cost of putting the measure on the ballot by the end of the week.

Mayor Dick Hayes said in an interview he doesn’t know how residents would vote, but he thinks public opinion has gotten more positive of marijuana shops since they were legalized statewide in 2015.

“People are driving to Myrtle Creek to buy it, people are driving to Roseburg to buy it,” Hayes said.

Residents said the current restrictions aren’t business-friendly at the recent city workshop. Others said the city works hard to create a family-friendly atmosphere and marijuana shops would hinder that.

“A liquor store, how does that make us kid-friendly,” Hayes said. “We have over a dozen places where you can buy alcohol.”

Max Egener can be reached at megener@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217. Or follow him on Twitter @maxegener.

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City Reporter

Max Egener is the city reporter for The News-Review. He has a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and is an avid skier and backpacker.

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