Panel approves new medical marijuana restrictions

Recreational marijuana will become legal in Oregon on July 1

FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2014 file photo, a sample of marijuana is shown inside the dispensary at Collective Awakenings on in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Beth Nakamura, File)
A jar of marijuana (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Beth Nakamura, File)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — With only a month and a half left until marijuana becomes legal in Oregon, lawmakers are still fighting over whether or not cities and counties should have the power to ban dispensaries.

On Monday evening, an Oregon Senate special committee implementing the state’s marijuana rules passed a bill to impose a variety of new restrictions on medical marijuana.

The measure tightens regulations on the medical marijuana industry, such as limiting the number of plants growers can have.

The Senate Special Committee on Implementing Measure 91 also agreed Monday on a provision that allows local governments to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their jurisdictions.

Anthony Johnson, the executive director of New Approach Oregon, told KOIN 6 News he’s frustrated over the issue.

“It’s important to have the will of the voters implemented,” Johnson said. “There is some frustration and I wish the legislature would have tackled some of the basics.”

Johnson was a driving force in making recreational marijuana legal in Oregon. Now, he watches as lawmakers struggle to pass rules and regulations.

As the July 1 legal date quickly approaches, Johnson said he’s worried lawmakers’ proposal to regulate medical marijuana could potentially ruin things for the soon-to-be legal recreational marijuana industry.

“This will only exacerbate the black market and really hurt patients who depend upon safe access through state-regulated facilities,” he said.

Lawmakers are struggling to agree on the process for local governments who wish to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Some lawmakers want an automatic vote if a city or county creates a ban, but others like Senator Ginny Burdick want to require opponents to gather signatures, as they would to challenge any other local ordinance.

“If they have this vote of the people, it’s almost impossible to reverse themselves,” Burdick said. “It could seal into stone a decision the council might want to change in the future.”

But marijuana advocates, like Johnson, worry if lawmakers make it easier for cities and counties to ban medical marijuana, they could do the same for recreational pot.

Burdick told KOIN 6 News she doesn’t see the two as tied together.

“We split the committee up, at least on a temporary basis, because we have to get our work done, have to keep moving because we’re running out of time,” Burdick said.

The bill passed the committee on a 5-0 vote and heads to the Senate floor.

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