GOLD HILL — The Gold Hill City Council will discuss today how to handle expected requests to establish medical marijuana dispensaries inside city limits.
Medical marijuana dispensaries have been a hot topic for a number of local municipalities since the state Legislature passed HB 3460, which allowed dispensaries to obtain state licensing.
HB 3460 took effect March 3, and Gold Hill City Manager Rick Hohnbaum said the town has been in no rush to tackle the topic. Hohnbaum said he has urged council members to wait and observe discussions in other cities and see what issues crop up.
"We were waiting to see what the Legislature did, and I wasn't in any hurry to try and convince my council to create some policy before legislators had even come up with what they can and can't do," Hohnbaum said.
Since March 3, Hohnbaum said, the city has received a number of calls from potential business owners interested in starting cannabis-related facilities in town.
City officials last dealt with the topic of medical marijuana in 2011 when a patient resource center opened in the downtown. In addition, former councilwoman Christine Alford filed a complaint about a neighbor's medical marijuana grow. The neighbor, Jennifer Mehta, threatened to start a recall effort against Alford, and the embattled councilwoman pushed for special zoning for both dispensaries and backyard growers.
"There was some kind of draft marijuana ordinance that had previously been discussed before I arrived a year ago February, but nothing ever came of it, and I certainly did not want to be out in front because the first small city that does something is going to be the one to get sued," Hohnbaum said Friday.
"They aren't going to go after cities the size of Medford or Ashland. They're going to get some small city to make an example out of them."
Medford is in the process of enacting a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and has inserted language in a city ordinance that allows it to deny a business license to any enterprise that violates federal law. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.
The Ashland City Council took the opposite approach, clarifying a city ordinance to make it clear medical marijuana dispensaries were not banned.
In Central Point, the City Council approved special zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries, while Shady Cove city officials are grappling with whether to enact a moratorium.
Phoenix city officials, after months of debate and much heated public testimony, enacted a four-month moratorium March 3.
The Oregon Legislature passed a measure March 7, Senate Bill 1531, which gives cities and counties until May 1 to implement moratoriums, as well as the right to restrict where and when dispensaries can operate. Under the bill, the moratoriums must end by May 1, 2015.
Monday's Gold Hill City Council meeting is set for 7 p.m. at City Hall, 420 Sixth Ave. A study session on the subject is set to take place before the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.