SPRINGFIELD — Agreeing that they’re navigating uncharted territory, city councilors began Monday to write the local rules that will govern medical marijuana dispensaries within Springfield’s city limits.
Councilors also settled on the language that city voters will see when they decide in November whether to lift the century-old prohibition in the city charter to paying council members.
The council decided in April against a temporary ban on dispensaries, opting instead to impose local regulations on them above what the state mandates.
Owners of the two licensed dispensaries operating in Springfield said they could live with all but one of the proposed local regulations.
The city proposed barring dispensaries from within 1,000 feet of a public park, library, licensed preschool or day care center, or a residential neighborhood. The state already bans dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school or another dispensary.
City officials and the dispensary owners agreed that such a 1,000-foot buffer would practically outlaw dispensaries from the city because virtually all of Springfield’s neighborhoods abut commercial areas.
Councilors remained supportive of a buffer of between 100 feet and 1,000 feet, which dispensary owners still said would be too restrictive.
Bee Young, owner of Wickit Weedery, met with city officials when they drafted the proposed local regulations. Young said day care centers and preschools open and close routinely and a buffer would leave dispensaries in the city vulnerable to having to close at any time. She also questioned the need for a buffer from neighborhoods.
Young characterized the land use buffer as “totally unreasonable” and said she would fight it if necessary.
Jayson Thomas, owner of Cannabis LLC, located a short distance down Main Street from Young’s dispensary, said the buffer appears to be the product of a “subtle backlash from a small minority in the community.”
The proposed local regulations also would set operating hours, restrict access to dispensaries by minors, require dispensaries to secure a city business license, and subject their employees and volunteers to a criminal background check.
State law only requires a background check for the dispensary owner.
The council is set to approve some of the regulations on Monday. The others, including the land use buffer, would need to go to the planning commission for a recommendation and then come back for final approval by the council sometime after Labor Day.
A third dispensary in Springfield has received provisional approval, according to state regulators. An application for a fourth dispensary has been newly submitted.
Police Chief Tim Doney told the council he wouldn’t push for tougher local regulations but has strong reservations because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. He urged councilors to use the utmost care when drafting the local regulations.
“We really are in uncharted territory,” he said. “It would be easier down the road to loosen restrictions rather than the other way around.”
As for the charter amendment, councilors agreed to ask voters in November to approve a monthly stipend of $500 for the mayor and $300 for the six councilors.
Councilors had flirted with higher monthly stipends of $600 and $400 but decided against it because a public survey that found support for such a measure had included the lesser amounts.
“If we change what we said in the survey, I think we’re stepping into less approval territory,” Mayor Christine Lundberg said.
The council, following a recommendation from a citizen advisory committee, drafted the measure so the stipend would be adjusted for inflation at the start of the budget year based on the local consumer price index. The city of Eugene adjusts its compensation for the City Council in the same way.
The council is expected to vote to send the measure to the ballot on Monday, its last meeting before its summer recess.
The city reimburses councilors for expenses they incur in their official capacity, such as mileage and event fees. But the stipend would help compensate them if they use vacation time at work to attend a city event or want a spouse or family member to accompany them to a community event.
Follow Christian on Twitter @RGchill . Email [email protected] .
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