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Racing the calendar on retail marijuana

Newport City Hall

Newport City Hall

Newport City Councilors Monday night approved temporary regulations for allowing retail marijuana sales within the Newport city limits. The regulations align closely with pending state rules laid out by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission which is expected to finalize their version sometime next Spring. The Newport rules include the 1,000 foot buffer between retail outlets along with time and manner of operations; no products visible from the street, no minors allowed inside and comply with state regulations, such as they are.

The council also went along with Councilor Laura Swanson’s request that no retail outlet be permitted within a thousand feet of a day care center. As it turns out, there are a few day care centers in Newport that don’t have business licenses who will be asked to get them, so that they can be properly noted for what they are and ensure no day care center has a retail marijuana outlet within a thousand feet of them as required for public schools. A thousand feet is over three football fields away.

Councilor Ralph Busby Opposed 1,000 foot buffer for day care centers.

Councilor Ralph Busby
Opposed 1,000 foot buffer for day care centers.

But Councilor Ralph Busby objected to the day care buffer, observing that there is no thousand foot requirement placed on stores that sell cigarettes or alcohol. “It seems unfair to me,” he said, “to restrict the sale of a perfectly legal product under conditions that other intoxicants or stimulants vendors don’t have to comply with.” Busby added that no retail marijuana outlet will be selling their products to any 3, 4 or 5 year olds.

But a majority of the council appeared to prefer to try out Councilor Swanson’s idea and “see how it goes.” But City Manager Spencer Nebel, along with Community Development Director Derrick Tokos pointed out there may be some confusion after the marijuana outlets are established and then a day care center comes in afterward and wants to set up shop within 1,000 feet of them. Nebel said if such a thing happens, staff would recommend that they don’t order the marijuana shop(s) to shut down, but rather to inform the prospective day care center owner that there is already an established retail marijuana outlet within a thousand feet of where they want to open their doors. It’ll be the day care owner’s choice whether they want to go through with their plans anyway.

When it came down to a decision, the vote was 5 to 2, with councilors Ralph Busby and Wendy Engler voting to drop spacing restrictions altogether when it comes to day care centers. They said day care centers come and go and that they should not have the power to affect the sale of a lawful product just like other businesses.

Final adoption of the city’s retail marijuana regulations is expected at the next city council meeting.

Applications for retail marijuana sales permits begin January 4th.

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