Pubdate: Mon, 09 Dec 2013
Source: Corvallis Gazette-Times (OR)
Copyright: 2013 Lee Enterprises


Because the legislative session that starts in February is a
relatively short one, it's not the best time to bring up contentious
issues - but legislators nevertheless may need to wade into the
state's looming controversies on marijuana on a couple of fronts.

First, it may well be that the law regarding dispensaries for medical
marijuana will need clarification.

And it's not out of the question that legislators will make a run at
referring a legislative initiative to voters - in part to possibly
head off a citizen-written measure that could appear on the ballot as
early as November.

Deadlines are tighter with the dispensary issue, especially since
applications from people who want to open the establishments will
start to flow to the state beginning March 3.

At issue is the implementation of House Bill 3460, passed earlier by
the Legislature in an effort to solve a problem with the Oregon
Medical Marijuana Program. Under the rules of the program, medical
marijuana patients must either grow their own or find someone to grow
it for them.

The new dispensary law creates a third-party system for matching
patients with a reliable supply of cannabis.

The law directs the Oregon Health Authority to create a registry of
state-approved dispensaries and develop regulations for their
operation. An advisory committee has been meeting to hammer out rules
for licensing and running dispensaries.

In the meantime, though, mid-valley entrepreneurs are pursuing plans
to open dispensaries in both Albany and Corvallis. And officials in
both cities are pondering the possibility of trying to block the
establishments, in part because of concerns from law

It's not clear, however, what legal mechanism governments could use to
block the dispensaries. The League of Oregon Cities has told its
members that they have broad latitude to ban them, but the state's
legislative counsel responded with an opinion that cities can't
prevent or restrict the operation of the facilities.

No wonder that prudent city attorneys, like Albany's Jim Delapoer,
would prefer to see some other city serve as the expensive test case
in the courts.

Or the Legislature could try to clarify the issue while at least a
little time remains before that March 3 deadline.

Also looming is the question of marijuana legalization, which seems
almost certain to make the Oregon ballot at some point. Advocates of
legalization in the past have urged the Legislature to take the lead
and draft a carefully written proposal for voters to consider rather
than roll the dice with a potentially haphazard measure written by
proponents themselves.

And that still is the best course of action. It might take a little
longer - and it might not be something that the February session will
have time to deal with. But a delay could give us a chance to watch
developments in Washington state and Colorado, states which have
legalized the recreational use of marijuana. And it could result in
better public policy.
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MAP posted-by: Matt