By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Not many licenses are needed in Keizer.
An exception expected to come soon: a permit for those planning to have a medical marijuana facility in the city.
On Tuesday, Keizer City Councilors directed city staff to move forward with the Keizer Planning Commission’s recommendation from last week to create a Medical Marijuana Facility Permit in the city. Additionally, the requirements for the permit will be hashed out by a new task force.
The issue will then be brought back to councilors at their next meeting, on March 3.
By then, new state laws House Bill 3460 and Senate Bill 1531 will have been in effect for two days. The bills, signed into law last summer, allow for medical marijuana dispensaries within certain guidelines, such as nothing within 1,000 feet of a school or within 1,000 feet of each other.
There has been discussion at the city and county level throughout the state in the past few months about how to handle the situation. Marion County leaders have been looking at stricter regulations and hosted a medical marijuana forum in Keizer last week.
Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, noted a concern for city staff including city attorney Shannon Johnson, who was out of town Tuesday, was the relative newness of the issue.
“Part of the reason we have concern is there’s not a lot of history or case law here,” Brown said.
Kimberly Strand with the PGN Lodge on Cherry Avenue noted people using medical marijuana are not the “hippie smokers” as viewed by the general public.
“It’s simply not true,” Strand said. “We don’t have children running around in our parking lot.”
Strand also noted the new state law makes it hard for people like her who want to open a dispensary.
“I have to sign on everything that happens in that facility,” she said. “It doesn’t allow for a fly-by-night owner. Also, there is a $4,000 registration fee. That $4,000 is every year. The license fee for a bar is $250.”
Councilor Jim Taylor noted the fluidity of the new rules.
“It’s a moving target,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to take any action without our city attorney. I don’t want to make a motion that he’d come back and say we shouldn’t make. I would suggest having a special meeting next Monday night. We need to do it before (March 1).”
After some discussion from councilors about whether or not to have a special meeting next week, it was decided such a meeting would not be needed.
Councilor Dennis Koho said the important thing would be to not rush into a decision.
“We don’t license anything else in Keizer except temporary businesses,” Koho said. “If this will be state licensed, I’m not sure we need to get in very deep anyway. We could easily wait three, four, five months and the walls of Keizer will not come tumbling down. We won’t hurt ourselves, unless we overreact.”
Council president Joe Egli also cautioned against moving too fast.
“I’m not sure why we are rushing into this,” Egli said.
The motion was approved 6-1, with Taylor casting the dissenting vote.