Changes in Oregon marijuana laws are prompting Shady Cove to re-examine its ban on recreational marijuana sales, as the town's only source of medical marijuana is likely to disappear.
The Shady Cove City Council will discuss the possibility of lifting the ban at its next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 22451 Highway 62.
Voters passed the ban by two votes in November 2016: 794 in favor of upholding a city ordinance banning recreational sales, 792 opposed. Since then, the only legal source of marijuana in Shady Cove has been a medical marijuana dispensary called La Mota, which has struggled to support itself due to low sales, said Mayor Tom Sanderson.
The Oregon Legislature passed a bill in 2017 requiring all marijuana distributors to limit themselves to selling either recreational or medical marijuana as of Jan. 1, 2018. Sanderson said he thought the company had chosen to focus on recreational sales with the Jan. 1 deadline.
A phone call to La Mota was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.
The marijuana topic is listed on the council agenda as a discussion item, and Sanderson said he has invited speakers, including the owners of La Mota, based in Portland, Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler and county commissioners.
"I think it's going to be a very interesting meeting," he said. "And I would love to see the recognition of the seniors and veterans who need this."
Sanderson said he was considering the needs of those two groups when he decided to put the recreational marijuana ban on the agenda for discussion. Ever since the ballot measure, Sanderson said, he has heard from various community members on the topic of medical marijuana. Some senior citizens, he said, told him they depend on medical marijuana to provide relief for pain.
"I'm very sympathetic to those people who need it for medication," Sanderson said. "Personally it doesn't make any difference to me."
The cost of applying for a medical marijuana card, which according to the Oregon Health Authority is typically $200, is often cited as prohibitive for some Oregon residents. Jackson County has the most medical marijuana cardholders and growers of any county in the state; the most recent OHA numbers from October 2017 reported 9,066 cardholders and 4,917 growers.
Medical marijuana dispensaries have declined statewide, and La Mota is listed on the OHA website as one of only two in the county.
City Administrator Aaron Prunty said marijuana regulation is a topic that can garner heavy attendance at Shady Cove City Council meetings, and he expects this meeting to do the same.
"When we were talking about marijuana a year ago, we would have standing room only," he said.
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.