Marijuana policies: Silverton looks at new rules, taxes

August 2015 Posted in News

By Kristine Thomas

In an attempt to nip potential problems in the bud, the Silverton City Council met for almost two hours on July 27 to discuss how the city would deal with Oregon’s new marijuana laws.

In November 2014, Oregon voters approved Measure 91, legalizing the possession and sale of marijuana. On June 30, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 3400, which sets guidelines for the now-legal marijuana market. Since July 1, it has been legal to use and possess limited amounts of marijuana, but not to sell or distribute it.

House Bill 3400 also outlines the new limits on the size of medical marijuana growing operations, requires new testing and labeling standards for cannabis products and allows voters in cities and counties to levy up to a 3 percent tax on the sale of marijuana.

House Bill 3400 also gives cities and counties a say on whether they permit or ban the growth, production and sale of marijuana. If a city council agrees to ban marijuana, the ban would be in effect until residents vote in the November 2016 election to uphold the ban or overturn it.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, OLCC, is responsible for regulating the production and sale of recreational marijuana. The Oregon Health Authority oversees medical marijuana. Both organizations are still working out details for product sales.

Silverton’s current ban on medical marijuana facilities expires Oct. 6.

Starting on Oct. 1, Oregon adult consumers ages 21 years and older can purchase up to a quarter-ounce of dried marijuana per day at a medical dispensary, as well as seeds and up to four immature plants. This will be the first time marijuana dispensaries can sell to people who don’t have a medical marijuana card.  There will be no tax on the temporary sales program until Jan. 4, when a 25 percent sales tax goes into effect.

Silverton City Manager Bob Willoughby said the council work session was for the council to give staff direction on marijuana policies.

There are seven types of marijuana facilities permitted under House Bill 3400. For medical marijuana, they are growers, processors and dispensers. For recreational marijuana, they are producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers.

When discussing if they were in favor or opposed to banning six of the permitted facilities, city councilors Laurie Carter, Kyle Palmer, Jason Freilinger and Dana Smith all indicated they would not support a ban.

Carter said she does not support a ban because Silverton voters were in favor of legalizing marijuana. She also has friends who are battling cancer and have in the past resorted to purchasing marijuana illegally, not knowing what the product truly contained. She would rather have people purchase it legally, knowing the substance is regulated.

City councilor Ken Hector supported a ban. He said Measure 91 – the measure on the ballot last November to legalize marijuana– was defeated in Marion County by a 51 to 48 percent margin. However, he added, it passed in Silverton by about a 2 percent margin, with about a 78 percent voter turnout.

“It appears the majority of council supports controlling the time, place and manner of sales, but not a ban on sales,” Hector said.

He said his preference is to put it on the 2016 general election ballot, with two questions: Do voters support the retail sale of medical and recreational marijuana in Silverton? If yes, would voters support a 3 percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana to help offset the additional cost of monitoring/policing sales, and the resulting problems associated with sales.

Silverton Mayor Rick Lewis, the city’s and former police chief, said this is a complex issue.

“The Legislature gave cities the ability to go to the voters in our respective communities to get a clear feeling for whether or not to allow grow sites, commercial and medical marijuana sales in those cities,” Lewis said.

“In my view, voting to legalize marijuana in Oregon and allowing retail commercial marijuana businesses in the community are two separate issues and that is likely part of the reason why the Legislature gave us the ability to ask our citizens whether or not they want to ban such businesses locally.”

Lewis said he has a number of concerns about the burden on local law enforcement related to training, accessibility of products to minors, DUII enforcement challenges, and criminal activities relative to marijuana production that fall outside the law.

“There are many unknowns at this point, especially with regard to the sale of products that are infused with marijuana and how those products will be regulated for THC content (potency),” Lewis said. “I have concerns about adequate safeguards to ensure those products are not readily available to our youth. I have concerns about where such sales may occur and what changes, if any, they will bring to the character of the downtown core in particular.”

Lewis said he respects the will of the majority of the council concerning the issue.

“We are after all a democracy.  And I believe the council will exercise due diligence in doing what is best for Silverton,” he said. “We do have the ability to regulate time, place and manner of sales as well. And the law continues to restrict commercial marijuana activities within 1,000 feet of a school.”

Councilors indicated they would like the city staff to draft a policy regulating the time, place and manner of marijuana sales. For example, the council could set policy requiring retailers’ hours conform to state-approved liquor store hours, restricting location, and mandating security and storage measures. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, making it illegal for banks to accept cash deposits from marijuana sellers. One of many concerns expressed was the safety of having large amounts of cash at a retail site.

The councilors also indicated they would support a 3 percent sales tax on marijuana. The council asked Willoughby to look into the city’s business license rules and make changes. The current rules prohibit the city from granting a license to a business that would be in violation of a law.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.