- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregonians began applying Monday for state permits to open medical marijuana dispensaries, even as the Legislature once again delayed voting on a bill that would grant local governments the power to forbid such shops.

For a second time, Democrats in the Oregon House delayed voting on the bill that would let communities and counties prohibit medical pot stores within their borders.

House Democrats said they need one more day to discuss the issue before possibly sending it back to the Senate. Supporters of the bill called for urgency in clarifying how far local governments could go in regulating pot shops.

The Legislature authorized medical marijuana dispensaries last year, and the state agency that oversees the stores began taking online license applications on Monday.

Tom Burns, director of pharmacy programs at the Oregon Health Authority, said he doesn’t know yet how many applications have been submitted but noted there was “a lot of traffic.” He said the agency will work to get applications approved as quickly as possible.

Citing conflicting state and federal laws, local governments had asked the Legislature to take up a bill laying out their authority to regulate and even prohibit the facilities. Several jurisdictions have already passed legislation banning pot dispensaries.

Critics have argued that local bans would make it difficult for people to get needed medication. Dispensary owners say bans would be unfair to those who already have invested in security systems and other requirements to comply with state rules, and would have to relocate if local bans are allowed.

The House version of the bill, SB 1531, would allow local bans to remain in place. It reverses a decision made in the Senate, where lawmakers voted to let local governments restrict the time, place and manner in which pot stores can operate but not impose outright bans.

Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which restored the provision allowing local bans. He said he had enough support to pass the bill on Friday and urged his party to allow a vote then, but it didn’t happen.

Barker repeated his plea Monday on the House floor, paraphrasing Moses by asking House members to “let my bill go.”

Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, said he supports the bill and he joined several Democrats calling on their colleagues to allow more time for discussion.

In addition to allowing local bans, the House bill would require child-safe packaging on marijuana products and prohibit any efforts that might appeal to children.

The House said it would take up the bill again Tuesday. If it passes, it goes back to the Senate, which could accept or reject the changes.


Reach reporter Chad Garland on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/chadgarland

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