The Albany City Council on Wednesday voted 4-3 against enacting a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, deciding instead to consider two separate ordinances that would restrict where dispensaries could be located.
The council did a first reading of each of those zoning ordinances, but no second reading, meaning the matters are automatically carried forward two weeks. The council will have a work session April 21 and a regular meeting April 23; decisions can be reached at work sessions.
The first ordinance would require that any dispensary be at least 300 feet from any residential property, granting an exception if a dispensary wanted to set up shop in an industrial zone. That’s the current geographic situation for Canna Kitchen, which converts cannabis into smokeless forms of medicine at 2300 Ferry St. S.W. The kitchen has been categorized as a dispensary by the new state law allowing them and requiring that they register with the Oregon Health Authority at an annual fee of $4,000.
The second ordinance is the same as the first, except there would be no industrial zone exception. No second reading was asked for on that ordinance, whereas the council voted against a second reading of the first. One no vote prevents a second reading, and three councilors cast no votes.
On the moratorium ordinance, Councilor Bill Coburn joined avowed moratorium opponents Ray Kopczynski and Dick Olsen in voting no, forcing Mayor Sharon Konopa to break the 3-3 tie, which she did by also voting no. Konopa did so with the stated goal of getting one of the zoning ordinances put in place, and if neither one of those passes, she wants a moratorium reconsidered.
The state has given local governments the power to enact a moratorium on dispensaries lasting until May 15, 2015, at the latest, provided they get the moratorium in place by May 1, 2014.
Voting in favor of the moratorium were Rich Kellum, Bessie Johnson and Floyd Collins. Kellum and Johnson, noting that marijuana is illegal at the federal level, thought OK’ing dispensaries would violate their oath of office. Collins argued that Albany and Linn County haven’t supported marijuana legalization at the ballot box, that the medical marijuana system has been abused, and that “the Legislature got involved with lobbyists and made a mess of everything.”
City Attorney Jim Delapoer said the zoning ordinance that did not include an industrial zone exception would probably be more easily defended in court if the law, designed to protect residential neighborhoods, were challenged.
Also Wednesday, the council voted 5-1 to adopt changes to the city’s development code proposed by the Mayor’s Business Ready Task Force. The dissenting vote came from Kellum, who objected to the 60-decibel limit for home businesses and felt the changes sent the message that “we’re not business friendly if you’re a little guy” because home businesses are held to a more rigid noise standard than the residents around them.
The consensus among the other councilors, and city staff, however, is that the new rules are more fair and less restrictive to home businesses than the old ones.
“What you see as restrictions, we’re giving people an allowance to run a business in a residential zone. We’re allowing more use, and now we have measurable standards,” Community Development Director Mark Shepard said.
“The intent was to give more opportunity to operate out of their garage,” added City Manager Wes Hare.