The Albany City Council is abandoning its attempt to ban medical marijuana dispensaries via a change in the city’s development code.

The panel made the decision at a work session Monday by a 4-2 vote.

In favor were Floyd Collins, Ray Kopczynski, Bill Coburn and Dick Olsen. Opposed were Rich Kellum and Bessie Johnson.

On Dec. 11, the council had directed city staff to draft a code amendment outlawing any business that dispensed or delivered any drug in violation of state or federal law. Marijuana, medical as well as recreational, remains illegal at the federal level.

The amendment read: “No parcel of land or structure may be used for, or in conjunction with, an activity that violates any state or federal law prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, dispensation, or possession of any controlled substance” as that term is defined by the United States Code.

It went before the Albany Planning Commission Jan. 27, and the commission recommended against it by a 9-0 margin.

The recommendation was scheduled to go before the City Council at its Feb. 26 meeting, but Mayor Sharon Konopa on Monday suggested it best for the city to walk away from the matter in light of the commission’s vote, and a majority of the council felt the same way.

“I agree with the mayor; I think we should back off,” Coburn said. “I’m not interested in voting against our Planning Commission.”

The council’s decision clears the way for would-be dispensary operators in Albany to begin applying for state sanctioning March 3 as spelled out in a new Oregon law.

“The Planning Commission didn’t know what the council wanted and they said so,” said Kellum, who attended the Jan. 27 meeting along with Kopczysnki and Olsen.

Kellum meant that the council’s intent was to keep dispensaries out of the city, not to prevent medical marijuana patients from getting relief from the drug.

“It was all or nothing,” he said. “Frustrated is where I am at.”

Collins and city attorney Jim Delapoer voiced consternation as well.

“It’s a frustrating conflict with state and federal law,” Delapoer said. “It’s frustrating that the state medical board has not a better job of regulating physicians with regard to medical marijuana.”

Pending in the Oregon Legislature is Senate Bill 1531, which would give cities and counties the ability to regulate or restrict medical marijuana facilities, including prohibiting their registration.

Should that bill pass,it would give the council a clearer path toward banning dispensaries if it still wanted to do so.

“I’d be surprised if this law passes in this very abbreviated session,” Delapoer said. “But I’m frequently surprised.”

Albany Alternative Health Solutions plans to be one of the dispensary applicants when the registry law kicks in in three weeks.

Follow Steve Lundeberg on Twitter, @AnyGivenLundy, or email him at steve.lundeberg@lee.net

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