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Ashland approves marijuana tax, other regulations for dispensaries

 Posted: 10:50 AM July 02, 2014

The Ashland City Council approved taxing medical and recreational marijuana and adopted regulations governing the location and operations of medical marijuana dispensaries on Tuesday night.

The council authorized a tax of up to five percent on sales of medical marijuana, plus a tax of up to 10 percent on recreational marijuana sales. Councilors will set specific tax rates at a future meeting.

"We need to do this to position our community smartly," Councilor Rich Rosenthal said.

Oregon voters are likely to see a recreational marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot. The state previously legalized medical marijuana dispensaries if they meet a host of state regulations. Cities are allowed to impose additional regulations of their own.

A proposed recreational marijuana legalization measure would bar cities from imposing their own taxes, but City Administrator Dave Kanner said it's not clear the ban would apply to cities that adopted taxes before the measure took effect — assuming Oregon voters approve the measure.

Councilors also voted to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to locate on certain sections of Siskiyou Boulevard, Ashland Street and Main Street with a special use permit. They will not be allowed downtown.

Dispensaries also will be allowed in employment and commercial zones if they are at least 200 feet away from residential zones and go through a more rigorous conditional use permit process.

Dozens of neighbors in the Williamson Way area had advocated a 300-foot residential buffer.

Voicing anger and frustration, many neighbors stormed out of Tuesday's council meeting once it became clear councilors favored the 200-foot buffer.

In advocating for the larger buffer, Williamson Way resident David Helmich said it would protect residents on several neighborhood streets from the extra traffic drawn to dispensaries. He said dispensaries could create 80 to 200 additional vehicle trips per day.

Neighbors said narrow, winding Williamson Way cannot safely handle added traffic and has a limited number of parking bays.

Two medical marijuana dispensaries have obtained provisional licenses from the state to operate. One on Williamson Way won't be able to open because it directly borders homes.

Another is planned for Clear Creek Drive and appears able to meet the residential buffer zone regulation.

Councilors adopted a host of other regulations on dispensaries on Tuesday night. They include:

€¢ Dispensaries must obtain annual permits from the city of Ashland.

€¢ Dispensaries cannot make extracts, oils, resins or similar products from marijuana and cannot use open flames for the preparation of any products. Some dispensaries in other cities have experienced fires from those practices.

€¢ Marijuana and tobacco cannot be used at dispensaries.

€¢ Operating hours for selling marijuana are restricted to no earlier than 7 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m. Dispensary workers can do non-sales tasks like restocking outside those hours.

€¢ Dispensaries must have air filtering and ventilation systems that confine odors to the premises.

€¢ Minors are not allowed on the premises unless the minor is a medical marijuana cardholder and accompanied by a parent or guardian.

€¢ A person who has been convicted of manufacturing or delivering drugs once in the past five years or twice in the person's lifetime may not operate or own a dispensary. Background checks will be conducted.

€¢ Dispensaries must keep financial records that are subject to audit.

€¢ They cannot have security bars and cannot operate drive-thrus.

State laws include that dispensaries have security systems and not be located within 1,000 feet of each other or schools.

Ashland put a medical marijuana moratorium in place while it worked out its own regulations.

At their July 15 meeting, councilors are scheduled to decide whether to lift Ashland's moratorium.

— Vickie Aldous


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