Medical marijuana dispensaries reopen in Clackamas County, but new outlets still banned

Medical marijuana dispensaries reopen in Clackamas County, but new outlets still banned

After being forced to close his medical marijuana cafe nine months ago, Mario Mamone is finally breathing a sigh of relief.

Mamone, 65, can once again serve patients at his Maritime Cafe on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard, thanks to an easing of Clackamas County’s moratorium on such outlets this month. 

Maritime Cafe, along with three other dispensaries in unincorporated Clackamas County, were given the OK Jan. 8 to reopen by the county Board of Commissioners.

Over the past nine months, Mamone said he’s worked closely with the county’s planning department to help craft regulations and push the process along. “It was an overall positive experience,” he said.

The board’s move applies only to those dispensaries which received state licensing before the moratorium took effect. New outlets are still subject to the moratorium, which will expire in May. 

Last April, the Clackamas County followed the lead of dozens of Oregon cities and counties in enacting a moratorium. In light of a 2013 state law which finally regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, legislators allowed local governments to impose one-year moratoriums in order to have time to work out regulations.  

Clackamas County dispensary owners, many of whom invested thousands into their businesses and were bound by lease agreements, opposed the moratorium. Prior to the 2013 law, medical marijuana dispensaries statewide operated in a legal and regulatory gray area.

A group of medical marijuana advocates in the county tried to overturn the ban through a petition, but were unsuccessful in gathering the number of signatures needed to place a measure on the November ballot. 

Employees at Maritime Cafe, which operated for more than two years before closing to comply with the moratorium, were also affected. Three of the original five employees at the store moved on to other jobs. Manager Desirea Duvall went on public assistance to make ends meet.

“I am anxious to get back to work,” she told the board in December.

The county is now looking to craft regulations that deal with new dispensaries’ location, business hours and more. In particular, the commissioners will discuss whether to add location regulations that go beyond what the state requires, to include buffers around daycare facilities, drug treatment centers, pediatric clinics and other sensitive areas. 

Commissioner Jim Bernard said he’s particularly worried about McLoughlin Boulevard turning into a long strip of dispensaries. Three of the four dispensaries already exist on the stretch of state highway. 

The county last year formed a task force to make recommendations on the regulations regarding marijuana. 

— Michael Bamesberger

Marijuana news.

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