On a four to one vote Monday night, the Lincoln City City Council agreed to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana to the public starting October 1st – the public meaning 21 and older. Councilors Wes Ryan, Susan Wahlke, Kip Ward and Roger Sprague voted to allow the sale – only councilor Chester Noreikis said no. Mayor Don Williams was absent.
After a unanimous vote by public speakers at the podium to allow the sale starting October first, the council had a spirited discussion of what they heard and it appeared that councilor Sprague might be leading the council to a close 3 to 2 positive vote. But surprisingly he joined the already clear majority making it 4 to 1 to allow the sale of recreational marijuana from dispensaries.
So, come October first, Lincoln City joins Waldport and Newport in officially allowing the sale of recreational marijuana by medical dispensaries to the general public. Toledo, Depoe Bay and Yachats have so far taken no action which, by default, would allow the sale of recreational marijuana by dispensaries in those communities.
During public testimony, all of it in favor of allowing the sales, peoples’ major points were:
* Medical marijuana dispensaries are already tightly regulated by the Oregon Health Authority. If recreational sales were banned, it would only continue to help the well established black market continue to thrive. One dispensary operator said, under state law, they are required to test the marijuana they buy. He said they often send a portion of it back, due to the presence of pesticides and other chemicals used in the growing and processing of the product. There are no such testing or other precautions taken by those who sell marijuana on the black market. People who buy on the black market have no idea what they’re getting.
* Many people, including battle-scarred veterans, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and ailments due to exposure to hazardous chemicals in battle. One person testified that some are so chronically stressed out that they buy marijuana on the black market rather than go through more stress trying to get certified as a qualified medical marijuana patient.
* Others testified that between the already established rules set by the Oregon Health Authority and the tentative rules established by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, that the state is obviously headed in the right direction and that any further delay would simply signal that one’s opposition is against the legalization of marijuana, period. Yet Oregon voters have spoken – very loudly – especially among Lincoln County voters who produced the second biggest margin of approval among all Oregon counties – Multnomah County coming in first.
* And there were others who claimed that the city’s problem of not having enough money to keep its roads in good repair could get that money by simply taxing marijuana as it has the power to do? Why turn down that money by prohibiting early marijuana sales?
Again, the vote was four to one – Councilor Noreikis voting no maintaining that he was impressed with Police Chief Keith Killian’s consistent opposition to medical marijuana dispensaries selling to the public – Killian claiming that the rules, thus far, are not adequate.
In other Lincoln City City Council action, a proposal for the city to buy the closed down Elks Lodge didn’t make it. At least this time around. Councilor Kip Ward, without revealing the amount of the city’s offer to buy it, stated he felt the amount was higher than he would pay if he were buying it with his own money. When the vote was called, Ward voted no as did Councilor Noreikis. Councilor Roger Sprague voted yes as did Councilor Susan Wahlke. Since Councilor Wes Ryan had recused himself, due to a conflict of interest, the vote remained deadlocked at 2-2, and so it failed. Councilor Sprague hinted that the issue might come back before the council for another vote when Mayor Don Williams would be on hand to tip the scales one way or the other.
There has been frequent discussions about how the Elk’s Club property might be of use in connection with moving the Lincoln City Senior Center out of the Community Center facility and into some stand-alone location.