- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregon cities and counties would be allowed to ban medical marijuana stores, but only temporarily, under a bill approved Wednesday in the Oregon House.

Lawmakers voted to give cities and counties permanent authority to control things like the hours and locations of the medical pot outlets. Local governments that don’t want the facilities would be able to ban them until May 2015.

Supporters say the bill gives the cities and counties some clarity about their authority to regulate the pot facilities, but the local governments and law enforcement lobbies say they’ll continue to push for permanent bans.

The Legislature last year authorized medical marijuana dispensaries, but some cities and counties want to keep them from opening up the in their areas. Several jurisdictions have already passed legislation banning them and others are considering similar measures.

The cities and counties had requested the power to ban the medical marijuana outlets permanently, but House Democrats said that would have faced strong opposition in the Senate. They negotiated Tuesday to make the bans temporary.

A few Democrats, including Mitch Greenlick of Portland, spoke out against any form of dispensary ban, even temporarily. Greenlick said it sets a bad precedent.

But Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, who helped negotiate the compromise bill, said he believes local governments have a right to ban the facilities. The bill gives them some certainty and has the best chance of becoming a law this session, he said.

“This gives my community the tools it needs right now,” Clem said.

The measure also gives dispensary owners who have paid the $4,000 fee to register their pot businesses an option to get a refund if their location becomes subject to a local ban. The state’s pot dispensary registration website, which went live Monday, had already received nearly 300 applications by Tuesday evening.

Legislators say they will review the issue of local dispensary bans over the next year and may revisit it in 2015.

In a joint letter to House members, the Association of Oregon Counties, Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association encouraged passage of the bill, but also said they intend offer legislation in 2015 to repeal the May 2015 sunset clause on local bans.


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

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