A race against the calendar will soon become a race against the clock for Oregon lawmakers on the controversial medical marijuana regulatory bill. Under a law passed last year, medical marijuana dispensaries were legalized as of yesterday with some basic rules attached to operating conditions – distance from nearest school, distance from one dispensary to another, that sort of thing.
But the state House has been trying to pass a new law that changes the current one by allowing local cities and counties to set their own regulations, including outlawing dispensaries altogether. That version of the bill was smacked down in the state Senate as it pertains to the prohibition. Local control over operating rules but no outright ban.
Because the House version couldn’t get the modified bill passed, Rep. David Gomberg (D-Otis) said lawmakers sent it back to the Rules Committee to make changes to it. Gomberg said one of those changes is an outright ban for one year on the dispensaries in order for local governments to come up with their own new dispensary regulations if different from those included in the recently enacted dispensary law. In those cities and counties that enact a one year ban, those who applied for a permit starting yesterday would get their permit fees refunded promptly, according to Gomberg.
Against the backdrop of these “last days” legislative maneuverings, which are set to end officially on Sunday at midnight, the bill could be passed back out of the Rules Committee and be voted on again in the Senate and House again. If they stalemate again it would get pretty grim from there on. Republicans have also indicated that there is a big Republican Party long-term political strategy session starting up Friday in Seaside that many believe will force the legislative session to end, possibly with the current state law in place.
Critics of these latest legislative tactics are worried that it would set up a flurry of lawsuits from one end of Oregon to another between those who favor dispensaries to those who are diametrically opposed.
Gomberg added that there are a number of other related issues philosophically tied up with the dispensary legislation dealing with the emergence of marijuana-infused products – candy, gum, soft drinks and more. Also about how to tax medical marijuana.