PHOENIX — City officials have extended a four-month ban on medical marijuana dispensaries to a year and are grappling with a dispensary that continues to operate in town.
Council members voted Monday to replace a four-month moratorium, approved in March, with a yearlong moratorium.
City Manager Steve Dahl said the longer moratorium would give city officials ample time to determine how to manage cannabis-related facilities.
The council is set to give final approval to the moratorium, which would ban medical marijuana dispensaries until May 2015, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, at Public Works, 1000 S. B St.
Dahl said the city had heard from a handful of people interested in opening medical marijuana-related businesses and that Mayor Jeff Bellah was working with managers of The Greenery, a medical marijuana organization downtown, to determine how to allow it to operate legally.
"As it stands now, legally, they can't be open for two or three different reasons. We're trying to determine how to get The Greenery to operate legally within the city or to not operate," Dahl said.
The city contends The Greenery is within 1,000 feet of Armadillo Technical Institute, a charter school, which is prohibited by state law, though The Greenery disputes that figure. The city also passed an ordinance that prohibits businesses that violate federal law.
The Greenery managers say their nonprofit organization is a "patient resource center" that connects patients who share medicine and therefore is not a dispensary and does not violate the law.
Councilwoman Karen Jones, who along with fellow council member Terry Helfrich objected to the four-month ban but approved the longer version, said a yearlong moratorium will allow time for state rules to be ironed out.
"Right now, there are too many ifs and it's still a really slippery slope," Jones said. "I think it will help to have more time but who knows what we will come up with even in that amount of time?
"All we seem to have to work with for now is a badly written law and still the legislators change their mind about every 15 days. They've basically left it up to small towns to figure out what to do and they didn't even give us the information and the resources to make a rational decision."
Leland Berger, a Portland lawyer who represents The Greenery, called the yearlong moratorium "a really terrible decision" and voiced frustration for his client, The Greenery executive director Andrea Adams.
"Miss Adams purchased the property with the understanding that this was something she could do. And since then it's just been one series of disappointments after another," Berger said.
"We thought they had done a four-month moratorium so they could come up with additional regulations. We thought that process was moving forward."
Dahl said he had little doubt the longer moratorium would gain final approval next week, whether or not a full year was taken by city officials to establish regulations.
"The council wanted to make sure it had the time needed to figure out how to mesh between city, state and federal laws," Dahl said, "and to be able to work on a set of rules that everyone inside the city can live with."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.