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Mayor & Council (View All)

City Council Study Session

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Medford City Council Study Session
May 7, 2015
The meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m. in the Medford Room, City Hall, 411 W. 8th Street, Medford with the following members present.
Mayor Gary Wheeler; Councilmembers Tim Jackle, Michael Zarosinski, Dick Gordon, Eli Matthews, Clay Bearnson and Kevin Stine.
Councilmembers Daniel Bunn and Chris Corcoran were absent.
Special Guests:  Senator Alan Bates; Cindy Robert, Rainmakers via telephone
Eric Swanson, City Manager thanked Senator Bates for attending and for his participation in the legislative telephone calls.
  1. Marijuana Moratorium:  Kevin McConnell, Senior City Attorney addressed the Council and opened the discussion.  He spoke to the current House Bill 2488 which had been amended since the agenda documents were distributed.  He noted there are two tracks being discussed at this time, the medical marijuana dispensaries rules and the recreational marijuana rules.
Mr. McConnell noted that the City has been challenged by three businesses that were denied business licenses to distribute medical marijuana within the City limits.  Judge Gerking from the Jackson County Circuit Court upheld the City’s denial as the City’s code does not allow business licenses for business who do violate any local, State or Federal law.  As marijuana is still listed on the Federal Controlled Substances Act it would be a violation of Federal law.
He updated the Council on the recent case involving Patients Helping Patients and that this business was distributing medical marijuana.  The City filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory/permanent injunctive relief to close the business and Judge Bloom ruled in the City’s favor based on the violation of Federal law.  However, Judge Bloom did not support the Medford Code Section 8.015(4) stating that this was preempted by Senate Bill 1531. 
Mr. McConnell noted that as long as marijuana is listed on the Federal Controlled Substances Act he was confident that the City had a firm platform to deny the business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.  However, it is likely that at some point marijuana will be removed from the Controlled Substances Act in the future.
Mr. McConnell then spoke to reasons for the Council to re-think the City’s moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries as the perception of marijuana by people in Oregon and across the Nation has changed in recent years; Oregon voters have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana; Marijuana’s Schedule I status in the Controlled Substances Act may change soon; and the discussions at the State regarding Senate Bill 844.
Senator Bates spoke to the work being done by the Joint Committee on the bill and that if the Committee cannot move a bill forward by May 11th, the Committee will likely be disbanded.  At that point, both the House and the Senate would likely form committees and the bill would move back and forth normally with amendments and discussion.
Mr. McConnell provided examples of other municipalities and how they are handling the medical marijuana dispensary issue. 
Gresham allows medical marijuana facilities and grow operations in zones with no residential uses and have a stringent fee for applications and renewals. 
Hillsboro prohibits marijuana facilities in their downtown and distances from each other and parks and plazas.  The can be located in industrial zones and certain commercial corridors.
Tigard prohibits marijuana retail shops from the downtown and places them on Highway 99 with frontage facing the roadway; restricts distances from other facilities, schools, libraries, parks and recreational zones.  Also they prohibit the use of a drive-through and limit the hours of operation.
Mr. McConnell noted that it there are many unknowns regarding what rules the legislature will be looking at to manage this industry but there is support for allowing local municipalities to regulate reasonable time, place and manner for these facilities.
He provided options for Council consideration:
            Option 1: allow business licenses to be issued to any state-licensed marijuana business
  1. Amend marijuana tax ordinance to include taxation of medical marijuana facilities.
  2. Direct staff/subcommittee to draft proposed regulations for medical marijuana facilities.
  3. Direct staff to process business license applications from state-licensed medical marijuana facilities when regulations are in place.
  4. Direct staff/subcommittee to draft proposed regulations for Measure 91 businesses.
  5. Direct staff to process business license applications from state-licensed Measure 91 businesses beginning February 1, 2016.
Option 2: Keep moratorium in place for another year and see what happens at the state level
  1. Direct staff/subcommittee to draft reasonable time, place, manner regulations for both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana businesses.
Councilmembers discussed the options and questioned what is occurring with the Cave Junction case.  Mr. McConnell noted that they are waiting for the Appeals Court opinion on the Cave Junction case.
Councilmember Jackle questioned the development of a status quo on the moratorium with an option to have time, place and manner regulations if the moratorium is eliminated.
Senator Bates spoke to the work done with Joint Committee from the House and Senate and that they are struggling to bring forward a bill.  He noted that one of the key sticking points      is a State preemption against local communities and there is pushback as this will not be supported.  He noted that he felt a vote by local voters is a reasonable option.  He spoke to the difficult session issues with a change in the Governor, removal of PERS adjustments by the Court and the marijuana issues. 
Councilmembers discussed the issues of outdoor growing, dispensary locations and recreational/medical marijuana issues.  Councilmember Stine noted he did not see the rationale of banning dispensaries as change is coming and felt something reasonable should be brought forward.  Councilmember Bearnson noted he felt the Council needs to draft a responsible policy.  Councilmember Jackle questioned if a time, place and manner policy could be adopted with the ban still in place.  He felt the time, place and manner policy would be contingent upon any legislative restriction on banning outright.  Councilmember Gordon felt that the staff should start working on a time, place and manner for both recreational and medical marijuana.  He also spoke about his concerns with the conflict between his oath of office which requires upholding Federal law and moving forward with this issue.  Councilmember Bearnson noted that the City will continue to be challenged judicially by those individuals who apply for business licenses and are denied.  He stated that this issue is not going away and that the City needs to get ahead of the issues. 
Senator Bates noted that he is hearing that if legislation allowing local ability to direct time, place and manner was put in front of him, he should vote to support that.  Mayor Wheeler noted that we need some form of local control.  Councilmember Bearnson suggested that a committee of staff, members of the public, Council and business proponents be formed to discuss reasonable regulations.
Mr. Swanson noted that Mr. McConnell had presented information on time, place and manner to the Council and that he is hearing interest of having some Councilmembers in the group as well.  Councilmember Bearnson noted he would like to also see industry representation as well.
Mayor Wheeler requested that residential grows and the smell issue also be addressed. 
Councilmember Matthews noted it is hard to decide what to do with the uncertainty at the State level but he felt that the City should begin the work on a time, place and manner.  He requested that staff work to prepare a recommendation and that this be brought back to the Council in a study session quickly.           
Mr. Swanson clarified that this would be on the medical marijuana only and waits on more clarity from the legislature on the recreational issues.  He asked Senator Bates regarding outdoor grows in residential neighborhoods and if this was being addressed by the legislature.  Senator Bates noted that they are focused on the medical marijuana but that these should be the same for the dispensary issues.  He noted the Senate feels strongly that something needs to be done with Measure 91.
Councilmember Bearnson requested the study session on this be held on an evening that there are no other meetings so that there was sufficient time for Council to discuss the issues.  Senator Bates noted he will try to attend the future study session if he is available.
Meeting adjourned at 7:07 p.m.
Glenda Wilson
City Recorder

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