Albany’s lively discussion on medical marijuana dispensaries continued Monday at a City Council work session that, in the end, resulted in the council directing the city attorney to fine-tune a zoning ordinance restricting where dispensaries can go.

Councilors Floyd Collins, Rich Kellum and Bessie Johnson remain against allowing dispensaries anywhere in the city, favoring instead a one-year moratorium. Three other councilors — Ray Kopczynski, Dick Olsen and Bill Coburn — support the zoning response to the state’s legalization of dispensaries, and Mayor Sharon Konopa, an avowed marijuana foe, plans on Wednesday to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of a zoning ordinance.

Konopa said again she’d rather marijuana not be in the city in any form, medical or otherwise, but figures zoning rules are the most practical way of accomplishing her primary goal: protecting residential neighborhoods from having dispensaries in or near them.

Her reasoning is that having those rules in place may allow them to be grandfathered in should the stance on pot at the state level be further relaxed, including the legalization of recreational marijuana. There’s a widespread belief that will happen within the next few years.

“We’ll have a legacy of saying we’re protecting neighborhoods and property values,” the mayor said.

“No, Mayor, what we’re saying is bring it on,” said Kellum. “I don’t want it anywhere. The people who need medical marijuana have other places they can get it.”

Johnson is firm in her belief that marijuana is dangerous.

“We have the option to not approve dispensaries right now,” she said, noting the state has OK’d city- and county-enacted moratoriums. “I don’t care if it’s medical marijuana. I know what it does. It changes personalities.”

Collins noted that Linn County voters opposed legalizing dispensaries by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin when Oregon voted on the issue in 2010.

“I’d increase random drug testing if I operated a business that was close to a dispensary,” he said.

The ordinance the council figures to approve Wednesday at its 7:15 p.m. meeting says dispensaries can’t be situated within 300 feet of any property zoned residential or mixed use, or within 300 feet of the Office Professional and Neighborhood Commercial zones.

The 300-foot restriction does not apply to property zoned as industrial park, light industrial or heavy industrial.

The ordinance also calls for any Albany dispensary to pay an annual $150 city permit fee to “defray law enforcement costs associated with reasonable inspections, oversight, and enforcement actions.”

The ordinance would allow Canna Kitchen, 2300 Ferry St. S.W., to stay in operation as it’s in an industrial zone. It would also allow Albany Alternative Health Solutions, 820 Pacific Blvd. S.E., to remain in place as it’s in a commercial zone and not within 300 feet of residential.

The ordinance’s original wording applied the 300-foot buffer to “any property lawfully zoned to allow residential use,” but City Attorney Jim Delapoer told councilors that description was so broad it would almost be a de facto ban on dispensaries, hence the need for refining the wording.


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