Eagle Point council votes 6-1 to ban pot shops

EAGLE POINT — A one-year ban on medical marijuana dispensaries was approved Monday with a 6-to-1 vote by the City Council.

The city ordinance, which took effect immediately under an emergency passing, mirrors decisions by other cities and Jackson County after medical marijuana dispensaries became legal under state law March 3. The Oregon Legislature passed a bill that allowed local governments to enact one-year moratoriums while they grappled with new ordinances, but the moratoriums had to be in effect by May 1.

Eagle Point Mayor Bob Russell said the ordinance was the city's way of buying time to adequately decide how to deal with dispensaries, which some citizens had actively encouraged the council to restrict.

Russell voiced frustration over a lack of direction from the state on how cities should handle cannabis-related businesses.

"We expected a lot more out of our Legislature, frankly, to help us determine what some other options would be for dealing with these facilities, but they chose to kick the can down the road and said you have until May 1 to pass a moratorium and have more time to figure it out," Russell said.

"So we decided, as a city, that we wanted to go ahead and pass the moratorium for one year. That's not to say we'll wait until May 1, 2015, to come up with our solution, but we weren't ready yet to make any decisions."

Russell said the city had received an inquiry from at least one potential dispensary and wanted the ability to adequately decide how, where and whether such facilities should be permitted.

Council members Jonathan Bilden, Wayne Brown, Bill Fierke, Ruth Jenks, Kathy Sell and Russell voted in favor of the 12-month ban, while council member Aaron Prunty opposed it.

Prunty said in an email to the Mail Tribune that existing ordinances already gave the city the authority to refuse licensing of marijuana dispensaries inside the city.

Bilden said community members had been supportive of the council's decision for the temporary ban.

"We've had a lot of public comment within different community groups in Eagle Point and there was a lot of support to have restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries here," Bilden said.

"So when the Legislature passed this option to have a moratorium, that's what we decided was in the best interest of our citizens. We've had a lot of emails today thanking the council for doing this. It's been a very positive response from our citizens. We're all reading what's going on in other cities, so you get a little nervous going into a meeting on this issue, but it was very calm and peaceful and very supportive."

Eagle Point's moratorium follows one-year bans enacted in Gold Hill and Phoenix. Jackson County passed a 120-day moratorium that could be extended. Talent opted to allow applications for dispensaries under existing city codes. Central Point passed an ordinance in early March placing restrictions on where dispensaries can be located and permitted hours of operation.

Medford banned the dispensaries outright and revoked the business license for MaryJane's, which had been dispensing medical marijuana to patients. That revocation was reversed by a judge Wednesday, provided the business refrains from dispensing medical marijuana. (See story on Page 1A.)

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