Washington County commissioners reluctantly approved new restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday, responding to a plea from the county sheriff that the regulations would ensure neighborhood safety.
The 4-0 vote to approve the ordinance marked a stark shift for the board’s conservative majority, who last month said they were uneasy about regulating a substance that remains illegal under federal law. Chairman Andy Duyck abstained, while Vice Chair Bob Terry along with Commissioners Roy Rogers, Greg Malinowski and Dick Schouten voted yes.
Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett publicly addressed the board before the vote, urging the commissioners to approve the regulations before a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries expires in May.
With this year’s land ordinance season coming to close on Nov. 1, Tuesday was effectively their last chance to pass any kind of regulation.
“Your vote tonight is our one opportunity,” Garrett said. “(It’s) a well-written proposal that helps law enforcement do our job.”
The regulations most notably set a buffer between dispensaries to prevent crowding and limit hours of operations between 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
It might not make much of a difference, however — the ordinance would not affect recreational marijuana dispensaries if Measure 91 passes next week.
Still, the commissioners agreed it was better to take some sort of action.
“For some time I’ve been against this proposal for administrative reasons I now realize I have no control over,” Commissioner Roy Rogers said. “Without doing something tonight we have zero input.”
— Ian K. Kullgren