The Ashland City Council is grappling with whether to impose new regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries, including rules that owners, employees and investors not have past convictions for dealing drugs.
Councilors reviewed a draft city ordinance regarding possible dispensary regulations during a Monday night study session. The ordinance will likely come before the council for a decision about its adoption during a regular meeting on June 17.
Ashland is in the midst of a partial dispensary moratorium as it figures out local rules to govern dispensaries now allowed under state law.
The draft city ordinance would require dispensaries to obtain a special city permit — in addition to the state permit and city business license now required. Permits would be reviewed annually, and renewal could be withheld if problems emerged at a dispensary.
"It gives us tools if we start to have a problem," said Mayor John Stromberg.
The annual review provision would be similar to laws governing bars, which can lose their liquor licenses if problems develop.
The draft city ordinance would ban people from being owners, employees or investors in dispensaries if they have been convicted of manufacturing or delivering illegal drugs once or more in the past five years or twice or more in the last 10 years.
Councilors voiced concerns about that provision and said perhaps the ban should apply only to owners, not employees or investors.
Councilor Dennis Slattery said he wasn't sure it's the city's job to limit who can work for or invest in a dispensary.
Slattery and Councilor Pam Marsh said legal medical marijuana dispensaries can help shift the black market marijuana industry into legal settings. Slattery cautioned against putting up barriers to legal operations.
City Attorney David Lohman, who drafted the ordinance, said legal dispensaries can be used as a front for illegal activities, which is why the council might want to bar people convicted of drug crimes from being involved with dispensaries.
The draft city ordinance would make it illegal to produce marijuana oils or extracts on site, and open flames could not be used to prepare products.
Lohman said Portland has faced more than a dozen fires and one death from the creation of marijuana oils. Butane is often used to produce heat in the oil-making process, he said.
The draft ordinance would also:
Meanwhile, the Ashland Planning Commission is working on separate land use regulations that could apply to dispensaries. The council will also review proposals that come forward from the commission.
— Vickie Aldous