News flash: without any warning to Salem's citizens, the City Council might move to ban recreational marijuana sales at its Monday (August 31) meeting.
Here's a PDF version of this flyer; feel free to share far and wide
Download Hey Salem PDF
I find this outrageous, like so much the Mayor and right-wing council majority is doing these days.
My outrage is as much about the disturbing lack of public notice and transparency going on here, as the absurd notion that recreational marijuana sales should be banned in a city whose citizens approved Measure 91 by 53% to 47% in a 2015 midterm election with low voter turnout.
Bottom line, if you read no further. Email the Mayor and City Council ASAP, telling them to cease and desist from trying to overturn the will of the people and state law.
Today I learned that a "special order of business" is on the Salem City Council agenda for August 31. It is innocuously titled "(b) 2015 Marijuana Legislation (Legal)."
An agenda item link leads to a staff report. The report lays out four questions that the Mayor and city councilors are supposed to answer at Monday's meeting.
Should City Council;
(1) Prohibit "early sales" of recreational marijuana from Salem area medical marijuana facilities that may begin October 1, 2015?
(2) Prohibit or regulate the sale of recreational marijuana after the "early sales" period ends December 31, 2015? [Wrong! The early sales period ends December 31, 2016]
(3) Prohibit or regulate growing or processing of marijuana?
(4) Repeal SRC Chapter 32 - Marijuana Sales Tax - and refer a new ordinance to City electors that is consistent with state law?
Again, let's try to wrap our heads around the outrageousness of this.
Recreational marijuana now is legal in Oregon to use, possess, and grow. Sales in stores, though, aren't expected to begin until late 2016.
So to combat the black market and start bringing in much-needed tax revenue, the legislature allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to start early sales on October 1, 2015 of some marijuana products to recreational buyers.
The early sales period ends December 31, 2016 -- not 2015 as the City Council staff report erroneously says. Here's an excerpt from a League of Oregon Cities document included in the same staff report:
When will early sales start?
Medical marijuana dispensaries may begin selling limited quantities of recreational marijuana on October I, 2015. Sales of recreational marijuana from medical dispensaries currently are set to end on December 31, 2016. At that time, recreational retail facilities likely will be operating and selling recreational marijuana.
Thus it is bothersome that all the people who wrote, reviewed, and approved this report missed a blatant error that a senior citizen blogger in his pajamas (OK, shorts and t-shirt) noticed as soon as I started reading the report this morning.
What else are city staff getting wrong, if they missed this obvious error? The staff report comes from the City Attorney. Shouldn't Dan Atchison know the law?
Leaving that aside, it's the whole idea of banning early sales of marijuana, and even recreational sales entirely, that should cause Salem citizens to say "What the freaking hell is going on here?"
This is a big deal.
It deserves a heck of a lot more public comment and attention than a "secret" agenda item and staff report buried in a lengthy city council agenda released three days before the meeting at which the Salem City Council could initiate steps to prevent residents not only from being able to buy marijuana on October 1, but forever.
I put "secret" in quotation marks because the obscure agenda item and staff report technically narrowly comply with the letter of Oregon's open meetings law -- but certainly not with the spirit of it.
The City of Salem Facebook page post about the August 31 meeting has no mention about a possible ban on both early and post-2016 recreational marijuana sales. Given the widespread public interest in marijuana, and Salem voters being in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, a possible ban on sales deserves way more attention than a vague item in a city council agenda on a City web site that hardly anybody visits.
It seems pretty clear that folks at the League of Oregon Cities are working to spread anti-marijuana ordinances around the state. Two lengthy attachments from the League are part of the staff report.
The League's legal opinion, which was news to me, is that a city like Salem (where voters approved Measure 91) could ban recreational marijuana sales immediately all the way until the November 2016 general election by putting a measure on the ballot for consideration by voters.
In other words, even though Measure 91 requires a vote of the people to ban the sale of recreational marijuana (except in places where 55% or more of voters were against Measure 91) an ordinance calling for such a vote means that licensing of stores to sell recreational marijuana is put on hold until after the election.
So even though Salem voters almost certainly would turn down a ban on marijuana sales in November 2016, the conservative majority on the City Council could stop recreational marijuana stores in this town from being licensed until after the election.
All I can say is that if the Mayor or some city council members vote to ban either early or regular sales of recreational marijuana, those politicians deserve to be thrown out of office at the earliest opportunity.
People would be justifiably outraged if this happened -- both at the secretive way it was done with virtually no public notice or input, and at the "one finger salute" given to Salem voters who approved the sale of recreational marijuana by a healthy majority.
Tell them, hands-off on banning marijuana sales in Salem, or putting additional restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries and grow sites.
There are some worthwhile recommendations in the staff report. But the option of banning recreational marijuana sales is absurd, the absurdity being magnified by the secretive way it is being considered.
[Update: A commenter on this post said that when he emailed the City Council, he got back a FAQ document about the marijuana agenda item. I suspect this was rapidly whipped up after people started to email complaints about the possible ban on early (and late) marijuana sales.
Download FAQ Marijuana Agenda Item
The FAQs don't make great sense. For example, this one is completely Orwellian, a No meaning Yes.
Q. Will Council be voting to ban the early sale of recreational marijuana?
A. No. However, Council will be asked whether they want to ban the early sale of recreational marijuana by medical marijuana dispensaries which could otherwise begin October 1, 2015. If so, action would be taken at the next Council meeting.
Huh? That "No" is absolutely wrong. The only way early sales of recreational marijuana are going to happen under state law is through existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Repeat, the only way.
If the Salem City Council bans medical marijuana dispensaries from selling recreational marijuana, beginning on October 1, then this town won't have any early sales. It sure looks like nobody at the City of Salem understands what is going on legally.
It also looks like somebody (Mayor? A few City Council members?) have a desire to ban early sales, or this staff report wouldn't have been requested.
Here's another error in the FAQs.
At the beginning of this post I quoted what the City Attorney is asking guidance on from the City Council. One question he asked is whether the Council wants to ban the sale of recreational marijuana after the early sale period ends on December 31, 2016.
Yet a FAQ says:
Q. Will Council be voting to ban the sale of recreational or medical marijuana?
A. No. However, as provided by recent legislation, Council could direct staff to prepare an ordinance to further regulate commercial marijuana activities.
Well, the staff report discusses ways the Salem City Council could ban the sale of recreational marijuana here entirely -- which is a question the City Attorney wants answered at the August 31 council meeting. So actually the Council will be voting whether or not to ban the sale of recreational marijuana after the early sale period ends.]