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home : opinions : opinions June 18, 2018

5/23/2018 8:07:00 AM
CANNABIS - yes or no?
By David A. Asson

Editor's note: David Asson is a Sisters City Councilor. He notes that all comments in this article are solely his own.

Four years ago, in November 2014, Sisters voted narrowly to permit marijuana dispensaries to open for business, as did the entire state of Oregon.

Based on unscientific discussions it seems to me that our populace is still almost equally divided on the issue. Marijuana is illegal nationally, but City Council has been informed that Federal law is not expected to be enforced or changed any time soon. We are advised to plan and decide without regard to national possibilities. An initial stop-gap recommendation is to adopt TPMs (Time, Place, and Manner regulations) which would allow the City to control hours of operation (Time), permittable locations (Place), and appearance (Manner). Some Oregon jurisdictions are even challenging the vote, i.e. trying to legally disallow dispensaries. Early results suggest that they will not be successful.

There is some interest in placing the measure on the November ballot so that the public can have a second chance to express their view. Although stated as fact, a vote for referral has not yet been taken. I oppose doing so.

OLCC has adopted and is enforcing a detailed set of rules intended to track and control the growth, processing, transport, marketing, employee training, counter display, safekeeping and assurance of marijuana product quality. I have visited an established dispensary and heard or read hours of pro and con testimony. Modern-day shops are not what I visualized months ago. Successful ones will be run by well-informed business people. Some shop operators demonstrate a willingness to assist in establishing acceptable TPMs. An example proposed by an owner that I spoke with is to locate shops in a marijuana zone off main street and minimize outside advertising. This would lessen glaring curbside impressions.

And, there is evidence that some products do reduce pain and stress. These arguments fail to address the basic core values test that many, including myself, wish society could embrace. However, it seems that little merit will be given such concern. I urge all to visit an existing shop and ask questions. You may find that stereotypes of past behavior are not as negative under today's conditions as we came to believe. I believe the best course of action is for Council to design appropriate TPMs and vote directly to allow dispensaries to operate in Sisters.

My specific reluctance to having a public re-vote is based on unpredictable consequences. To sponsor a second vote fairly, the City would have to educate voters on both sides of the issue. Attempting to inform all with so short a timeline would be formidable. I have spent hours in training and am still not solidly convinced of the right thing to do. I sense that permission to operate is the logical outcome, but... Let's assume the second vote remains the same. We will have raised some people's hopes, delayed the process, and made little headway.

On the other hand, if the vote turns out negative, i.e. to not allow dispensaries, there will be a serious quandary. Council could not then look the public in the eye, say thank you for voting and then declare that dispensaries will be allowed anyway. How would that play? Those opposed may rejoice momentarily thinking that they succeeded in banning marijuana, while those favoring acceptance engage attorneys to override a dubious reversal. Given results to date the proponents would likely win.

I pray that Council and Sisters agree to put this difficult issue to rest without further delay.

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