The Curry Coastal Pilot

SALEM - Cities and counties across Oregon spent the past two months rushing to adopt temporary bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, after a new state law created a brief window for officials to pass the moratoriums.

By the May 1 deadline, the map of cities and counties with moratoriums on the retail outlets looked like a patchwork quilt spread across the state: 142 of 242 cities and 26 of 36 counties had reported bans to the Oregon Health Authority by Friday, and the agency expects to receive more reports.

The cities of Gold Beach and Port Orford have passed moratoriums. Brookings officials decided to take no action.

Curry County commissioners decided in March not to impose a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, noting that delaying the opening of such facilities would not benefit anyone.

However, in April the commission said it was drafting an ordinance that will add to existing state law regarding marijuana dispensaries. The proposed additions include restricted hours of operation and places where the stores can't be located.

The moratoriums are supposed to provide time for communities to come up with their own regulations for the location, business hours and type of marijuana products sold, so even after the prohibitions expire, the state probably will wind up with a hodgepodge of local laws.

Mike McCauley, executive director of the League of Oregon Cities, said Friday that municipalities across the state will be watching how the newly licensed dispensaries operate in cities and counties without moratoriums, such as Bend.

"Some cities will probably be discussing coming up with draft proposals on time, place and manner restrictions," McCauley said, referring to the hours of operation, location and type of marijuana products. "And then there will probably be a few cities continuing to explore how they might position themselves with respect to trying to continue to ban them, if they want to ban them, or deal with them through licensing."

The degree of local control remains a point of contention between some municipal lawyers who believe cities and counties have the legal authority to prohibit medical cannabis retail outlets, and other officials including a lawyer for the Legislature, who wrote in a legal opinion last year that state law pre-empts local regulations on the pot facilities. Democratic and Republican lawmakers also differed on the subject, with some Republicans favoring more local control.

Oregon is in the midst of the largest overhaul of its medical marijuana laws since voters approved the substance for medical use in 1998. This includes House Bill 3460, which state lawmakers approved in the 2013 legislative session, to legalize and regulate storefronts where Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cardholders can purchase pot and edible cannabis products. The law requires dispensary operators to register with the state, purchase a license and make sure their products are free of pesticides, mildew and mold. The Oregon Health Authority is finalizing rules to put House Bill 3460 into practice, and public hearings are scheduled around the state later this month, Karynn Fish, an agency spokeswoman, said Friday.

There is also Senate Bill 1531, passed by the Legislature in March. This law created the window for local governments to pass laws to ban the dispensaries until May 2015 and required child-resistant packaging for all pot-infused products sold at dispensaries. Fish said the state plans to form a committee soon to begin working out the details to implement the law. McCauley said the League of Oregon Cities plans to push for more statewide regulations, such as criminal background checks on all dispensary employees, not just the operator as currently required.