The saga of Maryjane dispensaries was performed on the
legislative stage throughout the 2014 session. The tale
would actually be comedy if the subjects were not so
serious and if some of the characters were not such bad
The 2013 legislature amended ORS 475 to authorize the
Oregon Health Authority to register medical marijuana
dispensaries throughout Oregon. The law also prohibited
county and city governments from regulating medical
I voted against that law for a number of reasons.
In my opinion, registered medical marijuana
dispensaries represent the final step in the progression
before authorizing the legal retailing of marijuana
products. The current law allowed virtually unregulated
infusion of marijuana and its extracts into a variety of
food products such as candy, cookies, cake, brownies and
other sweet bakery items.
Marijuana, in any form, continues to be classified as
an illegal drug under federal law. I believe the
Legislature has no legal right to force cities and
counties to issue business licenses to entities that
manufacture and sell illegal drugs in their
Political leaders in a great number of Oregon cities and
counties were also aghast at this new law. They knew
that there were more than 250 applications to establish
medical marijuana dispensaries in just the first two
months of eligibility. It was clearly understood that
the approximately 60 thousand Oregon medical marijuana
card holder could not support even that many retail
locations. The local leaders considered the registration
of medical marijuana dispensaries little less than
outright authorization for the retail sale of marijuana
and marijuana infused food products in their
For that reason, many city and county political leaders
asked for a bill that would provide Oregon cities and
counties authority for local regulation of these
marijuana shops. In response to that request, Senator
Bill Hansell pre-session filed SB 1531.
The bill authorized cities and counties to adopt
ordinances to regulate or prohibit registration of
medical marijuana dispensaries in their jurisdictions.
It prohibited medical marijuana dispensaries from being
located at marijuana grow sites. The bill also allowed
for local jurisdictions to regulate the storage and
dispensing of marijuana products in a registered
SB 1531 was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee
where it was functionally eviscerated.
As amended by Committee-chair Floyd Prozanski, the bill
still allowed a county to impose restrictions on
marijuana facilities. However, it provided that any
restrictions must impose “reasonable” limitations on the
hours that a medical marijuana facility may operate,
“reasonable” limitations on the hours of operation,
“reasonable” zoning restrictions, and “reasonable”
conditions on the dispensing of medical marijuana. The
word “reasonable” was not defined in the bill and, to my
knowledge, is not defined in Oregon statutes.
Further, the committee chair refused to adopt amendments
to regulate the infusion of marijuana or marijuana
extracts into food products that are inherently
attractive to small children. Not only is marijuana
known to be especially addictive to children and
teenagers but in unregulated concentrations it can be
SB 1531 passed through the Senate unanimously for two
reasons. The bill was a little better than no local
control. More important, the adults on the House
Judiciary Committee had promised they would amend the
bill to restore its original intent.
Under the leadership of Chair Jeff Barker, the House
committee did further amend SB 1531 to allow the cities
and counties to adopt ordinances that either prohibit or
regulate medical marijuana facilities. The Committee
added the prohibition of the sale of marijuana infused
products unless the product’s packaging is not
attractive to minors and complies with child safety
packaging as established by agency rule. The amendment
further prohibited locating a medical marijuana
dispensary at a marijuana grow site.
The Committee knew that the amended bill had strong
bipartisan support and would easily pass if allowed a
vote on the House floor. They unanimously voted the
amended bill to the House floor with a “do pass”
Unfortunately, House Speaker Tina Kotek and her Democrat
leadership did not support the amended version of SB
1531, even though they should have known it would easily
pass if allowed a vote. They employed procedural
manipulations for three floor sessions in order to
prevent that vote by the full House of Representatives.
They delayed until they were able to gain the majority
of Representatives present that was required to refer SB
1531 back to the House Rules Committee.
Once the House Rules Committee had possession of SB
1531, Kotek and her colleagues further amended the bill.
The ability of local governments to prohibit or regulate
medical marijuana dispensaries was limited to allowing a
city or county to adopt ordinances enacting a moratorium
on operations of registered marijuana facilities. The
moratorium must be enacted no later than May 1, 2014 and
can only be in affect until May 1, 2015.
SB 1531 subsequently passed out of the House with 51 yes
votes. It was then returned to the Senate for a vote to
concur with the House amendments. Apparently, the Senate
Democrat Caucus must have pressured Senate Judiciary
Chair Floyd Prosanski to agree to the House amendments
that recreated much of what he had stripped out of the
original bill. The Eugene Senator did recommend adopting
the House amendments and the Senate concurred on a 28-2
Governor Kitzhaber signed the bill into Oregon law on
March 19, 2014. The emergency clause made it take effect
on that date.
In my opinion, reducing the ability of local
jurisdictions to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries
to the year-long moratorium was a political punt.
Certain influential Democrats opposed an outright
prohibition. They also did not want to vote against the
prohibition in an election year. The wording of the new
law makes it virtually certain that the issue will be
revisited by the next Legislature starting three months
after the fall election.
The next act of Oregon’s medical marijuana political
drama will be played in the spring of 2015.
remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one