The Ashland City Council has given preliminary approval for medical marijuana dispensaries to locate along sections of major streets, as well as more out-of-the way locations as long as they are at least 200 feet from residential zones and receive conditional use permits.
Councilors began the gradual work of adopting a host of dispensary regulations earlier this week. They will continue the work during a meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1, in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
The Ashland Planning Commission had recommended dispensaries be limited to certain sections of Main Street outside the downtown, Siskiyou Boulevard and Ashland Street.
Planning Commissioner Richard Kaplan said those streets can handle heavy traffic and the high volume of people there would provide natural surveillance of the dispensaries, deterring crime. The limited areas for dispensaries would represent "baby steps" as Ashland moves to allow dispensaries, he said.
"It's easier to move forward than to pull back if we've made a mistake," Kaplan said.
However, a council majority gave initial approval for dispensaries to locate on those major streets with a special use permit, but also in employment and commercial zones if dispensaries are at least 200 feet away from residential zones and obtain a conditional use permit.
Getting a conditional use permit requires a more rigourous review process than obtaining a special use permit.
The looser regulation could allow dispensaries on streets like Hersey Street, Clear Creek Drive and in the Croman industrial area. Those areas are home to a variety of businesses.
Resident Neal Kinzie said he would like to provide medical marijuana to patients who visit Ashland Alternative Health on Clear Creek Drive. A number of alternative medicine businesses are in the area.
Kinzie said medical marijuana patients deserve a professional, discrete location to obtain marijuana.
But Williamson Way resident William Clary said dispensaries should be limited to major streets, as proposed by the Planning Commission.
Neighbors on Williamson Way have opposed a dispensary that sought to open on the street. It would have been immediately adjacent to houses.
Clary said the Planning Commission proposal balanced the needs of medical marijuana patients with the needs of residents concerned about negative impacts from dispensaries.
At the July 1 meeting, councilors will decide a number of other proposed regulations, including that convicted drug dealers not be allowed to operate, own or finance dispensaries, and that dispensary operating hours be limited to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
State law already imposes numerous regulations on dispensaries, including that they have security systems and not be located within 1,000 feet of schools or each other.
The Oregon Legislature has allowed local jurisdictions to adopt their own regulations on dispensaries. Ashland has a temporary moratorium on dispensaries in place while it works on its own regulations.