BROWNSVILLE — Members of the Brownsville City Council want to call time out on the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary within the city limits.
Councilors voted unanimously at a special meeting Wednesday to have staff work up language for a one-year moratorium on such dispensaries, with that language to be considered at the Feb. 25 council meeting.
City Administrator Scott McDowell said the language likely will include the ability to lift the moratorium should new information become available, such as state legislation being considered that would allow local governments to regulate dispensaries but not ban them.
Randy and Gayle Simpson’s plans to open a dispensary in Brownsville caught a good portion of the city off guard and prompted Wednesday’s meeting.
State law now gives Oregonians the right to start applying to operate state-sanctioned dispensaries as of March 3.
Several cities are struggling with that concept, however. In Medford, city officials said dispensaries had to comply with federal laws, effectively banning the establishments. In contrast, Ashland loosened its business regulations to help make the dispensaries possible.
In Brownsville, councilors “want more time to do discovery on this,” McDowell said. “What are the impacts going to be? What are some of the bigger cities doing? What’s happening in Ashland? What experiences should we look for?”
Ten people, including the Simpsons, spoke in favor of the dispensary. Nine spoke in opposition, and two others submitted opposing letters.
Councilors closed public comment after listening to both sides and then discussed the issue themselves.
Proponents outlined the medicinal qualities of marijuana, problems with the current “black market” situation and the benefits of cardholders having ready and regulated access.
McDowell said opponents cited public perception, Brownsville’s small-town atmosphere, law enforcement concerns and possible effects on both tourism and local businesses.
McDowell said most of the people who spoke in opposition to the dispensary said they understand the benefits of medical marijuana.
“It really came down to a dispensary issue: Is that in the best interest of Brownsville or not?” he said.
The Simpsons, both cardholders themselves, said they were disappointed by the decision, and especially by what they see as the implication that medical marijuana patients somehow tarnish the city’s image.
“They’re law-abiding citizens just like the average person,” Randy Simpson said. “That’s why they have a card.”
The couple said they’re waiting to see what the resolution actually says and what the law eventually allows.
Said Randy: “We’re not giving up hope that we will still be allowed to open a dispensary. We’re just disappointed in the outcome of the city council and how they came to their decision.”