Joseph mayor, Teresa Sajonia, created a marijuana dispensary committee after some controversy arose among interested parties regarding a possible amendment to city ordinance 2015-01. The ordinance contains zoning regulations for marijuana dispensaries. The city voted to allow recreational dispensaries in the November 2018 election.
The six-members committee includes includes council members Marty Hamilton , who is the committee chair and Pearl Sturm. Other members include former law enforcement officer Ken Pagano, Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office deputy, Lem McBurney and former council member Tyler Evans. LUCS applicants, Zeb Burke and Jim McCormack also regularly attended meetings.
The bone of contention between committee members and those who have filed Land Use Compatibility Statements with the intention of opening a dispensary is contained in Article 11.040 3 of the ordinance, which does not allow dispensaries to be located within 1,000 feet of each other. The state has no such regulation.
The city’s limited amount of space would probably allow only one dispensary within the city limits. This is because state law does not allow for dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, and the centrally located Joseph Charter School cuts a wide swath through the city. The state has no such regulation concerning the proximity of dispensaries.
Before addressing the ordinance issue, several attending citizens raised questions concerning other elements regarding dispensaries.
Hamilton and Sturm both assured audience members that Sheriff Steve Rogers is working with the city to ensure that criminal elements involved with the illicit drug trade do not maintain a presence in the city.
“We know that there’ll be criminal elements,” Sturm said. “I’m sorry to say you can’t stop them.”
Hamilton also said that dispensaries are heavily regulated by the state and tight security is mandated. He noted that dispensaries are required to card people and that the buildings are required to have extensive security systems also.
Questions also arose regarding an increase in property crimes such as burglary from users who can’t afford dispensary marijuana. Pagano said that his experience as a career police officer indicated it would not be a problem. He added that he did see marijuana as a “gateway” drug that leads to other forms of drug abuse.
Most committee members seemed intent on limiting the city to one dispensary. More talk ensued regarding the opinion that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs, comparable to beer as a gateway to hard alcohol. No one suggested keeping establishments that serve alcohol 1,000 feet from each other. The committee also noted that city attorney Wyatt Baum thought the ordinance lawsuit-proof from those who wanted more than one dispensary in the city.
When it was suggested to place a dispensary in the city’s industrial area off of Russell Lane, Hamilton noted it had no power or water although the city is considering that option. He added that he was in favor of more than a single dispensary because of the possible added revenue to the city.
“I’m trying to get a consistent check from the state of Oregon,” he said.
In the end, the council opted to keep ordinance 2015-01 in place and the committee disbanded.