State-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries can set up shop in Albany provided they meet certain land-use requirements, the City Council decided Wednesday by a 4-3 vote.

The decision brings to a close, for now anyway, months of discussion and deliberation regarding the city’s response to dispensary legalization and the state’s provision that counties and municipalities could impose reasonable restrictions on them.

The state also allowed for the enactment of a one-year moratorium on dispensaries, through May 15, 2015, provided the moratorium was in place by May 1, 2014.

Councilors Floyd Collins, Bessie Johnson and Rich Kellum were steadfast in their backing of a moratorium. In support of allowing but restricting dispensaries were Ray Kopczynski, Dick Olsen, Bill Coburn and Mayor Sharon Konopa, who cast the tie-breaking vote.

“People are really polarized, and this can be more of a balance,” said Konopa, who is an unabashed marijuana opponent and defender of residential neighborhoods. “I do feel in my heart this is best for our community, to get them properly placed.”

In summary, dispensaries are OK in Albany as long as they meet all the conditions spelled out in House Bill 3460 and are more than 300 feet from any property zoned residential, mixed use, office professional or neighborhood commercial, or are in an area zoned industrial park, light industrial or heavy industrial.

Kellum and Johnson both fear having legal dispensaries in Albany will make it easier for children to get marijuana; Kellum cited a Colorado study that said youth visits to the ER for marijuana poisoning had soared since dispensaries were legalized there in 2009.

Among Collins’ objections is allowing dispensaries in industrial zones. He also notes that Oregon and Linn County voters have said no to dispensaries.

“I just don’t know what the hurry is (to allow them in Albany),” said Johnson, who like Kellum doubts the predicted inevitability of overall marijuana legalization.

“I’m really disappointed about the council’s decision on this marijuana stuff,” community activist Tom Cordier told the panel. “I think you’re out of step with the community. The voters will speak again this November.”

After the meeting, Albany businessman Kevin Manske said he would run for Olsen’s seat in the fall.

Follow Steve Lundeberg on Twitter, @AnyGivenLundy, or email him at


Load comments