LA PINE, OR -- Madras and La Pine join the more than a dozen cities and counties imposing moratoriums on recreational pot sales. State Legislators allowed communities to decide whether to opt out of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell the drug recreationally, when early sales become legal October first.
La Pine City Councilors voted unanimously this week to not allow early sales, but City Manager Rick Allen says they are leaving the door open to decide later whether to send a permanent ban to voters. "At least half of the Council does want to put that to a vote next November of '16; however, that decision has not been made. We have a new Councilor coming on, so let's not leap out to that yet."
Allen tells KBND, "We have two operating medical marijuana dispensaries that Council put rules in place to allow those; those continue. It is simply the early sales of recreational marijuana. The Council wants more time to think about and to figure out what our rules will be, 'time, place and manner.' And, once all of those things come together, we can vote on this again at some point." If the city decides to send the issue to voters, it would appear on the November 2016 ballot. He says a lot is expected to change over the next several months, with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Legislature and Oregon Health Authority all still working on rules. "Believe me, this is a moving target. I think it's probably what happened with prohibition; I don't know that. But, I think it's just grappling with all of the moving parts for an issue that has lots of emotions and lots of feelings on all sides. Government tends to struggle with social issues that haven't yet been well-defined. And, that's kind of what's causing, I think, the rub on both sides."
In Madras, City Councilors took a slightly different track. Councilors voted to impose a temporary ban, prohibiting early recreational pot sales at dispensaries. With Councilors split over sending a ban to the ballot, Mayor Royce Embanks was the deciding vote. "Basically, we decided that we wanted to bring it to the voters. We didn't do anything to medical marijuana. But, we did decide that recreational marijuana should be brought to voters again." It will appear on the November 2016 ballot.
Like La Pine, Embanks says things are still changing. "Between now and when this vote takes place, there's a lot of things that can change. We may find ourselves six months to a year down the road, where this is a whole different scenario altogether. I think it leaves that option open. Plus, if you go to the voters, people will have a chance to mobilize people on their behalf, get people registered. And, it'll actually increase the vote, I'm thinking; and I'm all for everybody voting."
Mayor Embanks adds, "This is a moving target; we just really don't have any idea where we're going to end up. We certainly hope that OLCC and the Legislature really think this out and make some good decisions and not just slam stuff together out of expediency."