The Hillsboro Planning Commission on Wednesday night reopened its public hearing on medical marijuana dispensaries for the first time since August, but it still has not voted on how to zone the facilities, which will become legal in the city in May.
Commissioners continued the hearing to Feb. 25.
Though Wednesday’s meeting began at 6:30 p.m., area residents had to wait until after 9 p.m. to testify on the dispensaries, as most of the meeting was devoted to a proposed housing subdivision off of Northwest Milne Street.
Eight of the 10 people who addressed the commission, including patients and relatives of patients, urged the planners to provide ready access to medical marijuana.
“It is easier for my daughter to obtain marijuana than it is for me, and I am an adult,” said Chauncey Cummings during the hearing, warning that the city’s failure to allow dispensaries to locate in Hillsboro would only encourage an existing black market.
The commissioners postponed the hearing in August because they wanted to see if Oregon voters would legalize recreational marijuana in November’s election. Measure 91 indeed passed, with more than 55 percent of voters approving the initiative in Hillsboro, Washington County and the state at large.
City staff now say it is “largely unknown at this time what the effects of Measure 91 will have on medical marijuana use.” Hillsboro, like many other Oregon cities, passed a tax on recreational marijuana before it was legalized, a levy that may not have legal standing.
Planning staffers want to adopt zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries before May 1, when the state’s window allowing individual cities to ban the facilities will close. Hillsboro passed its own one-year ban last April and has at this point been considering the issue for more than a year.
City planners are recommending that the commission approve hours of operation of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Planners also want requirements for enhanced outdoor lighting and co-location restrictions with marijuana “social clubs” and manufacturing facilities.
The state legislature stipulated that dispensaries couldn’t be within 1,000 feet from schools or other dispensaries. City staffers, though, want to broadly interpret the state law and institute additional 1,000-foot buffers – from the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, parks, libraries and residential zones.
Sam Chapman, one of the authors of the bill that legalized and regulated dispensaries, pointed out to the commission that Hillsboro does not place such regulations on pharmacies or liquor stores. And Michael Hamilton, who is looking to open a dispensary in Hillsboro, said adopting the strict zoning would effectively legislate them out of the city.
The commission and Hillsboro City Council will have the final say on whether to adopt the staff’s recommendations. Some planning commissioners, led by the comments of Commissioner James Maguire, signaled on Wednesday that they might support a recommendation more akin to the state’s less-strict model.
Supporters of dispensaries have repeatedly reminded the planning commission that all 17 people who attended two open houses in February and March of 2014 said the state’s regulations were adequate by themselves.
— Luke Hammill