Six Oregon Cities Vote to Allow Marijuana Businesses

Written by: Claire Withycombe – Salem Reporter

Voters in six Oregon cities appear to have lifted or rejected bans on recreational marijuana businesses.

Ontario, Joseph, Klamath Falls, Gates, Sumpter and Clatskanie voted to allow recreational marijuana businesses within city limits, according to unofficial election results from the state Elections Division.

Voters in Joseph, Clatskanie, Ontario and Klamath Falls were overturning existing bans on recreational marijuana in those places.

Altogether, 29 local measures related to marijuana were on the ballot, according to an Oregon Capital Bureau analysis of the unofficial results.

Some communities had multiple measures relating to marijuana on the ballot, separating the question of whether to allow retail sales and to tax such sales.

The impact of those measures on the workload of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational marijuana, depends on local time, place and manner restrictions imposed by the cities, said Mark Pettinger, an OLCC spokesman.

Such restrictions could effectively limit the number of marijuana businesses that could operate within a limits. The state’s workload will also depend on the type of licenses that prospective cannabis purveyors seek in those communities, Pettinger said.

For example, a license for someone who grows marijuana takes longer and is more complicated to approve than a license for someone who wants to sell marijuana products in a store.

The election results show that opposition to cannabis may be eroding in rural areas, said Don Morse, director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council.

“Places like Klamath Falls, etc., have come to accept the fact that cannabis is a major part of their economy and that banning it is just ridiculous,” Morse said. “So they’re choosing to accept it and to get the tax benefits that come with it.” Oregon voters approved legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and older in 2014.

On Tuesday, voters in most cities, typically small and rural, appeared to keep or impose bans on recreational marijuana.

Those included Dufur, Haines, Dunes, Culver, Imbler, Sisters, Shady Cove, Unity and Brownsville. The city of Turner, in Marion County, voted to ban new recreational marijuana businesses.

Morse said those communities imposing bans this year tend to dig in against cannabis for moral reasons.

“It’s similar to when alcohol prohibition changed,” Morse said. “There were a lot of communities in Oregon that wanted to stay dry. It’s just going to be a matter of time before they hop on the bandwagon.”

Taxing cannabis locally proved popular, though. In addition to allowing recreational cannabis, Ontario and Klamath Falls voters also approved a 3 percent sales tax on cannabis.

Voters in Lakeview, Turner, Hood River County, Coos County, Coquille, Cave Junction, Grants Pass, Manzanita, Gearhart, Josephine and Clatsop County also voted to allow or impose local taxes on recreational marijuana. None of those areas currently ban recreational marijuana, according to records maintained by the OLCC.

Three other cities approved taxes on marijuana despite imposing simultaneous restrictions on it: Haines, Sisters and Turner.

Haines voted to keep an existing ban on recreational marijuana businesses, Sisters rejected efforts to allow recreational marijuana there, and Turner disallowed new medical and recreational marijuana businesses.

Some results were very close as of Wednesday afternoon. Voters in Sumpter, in Baker County, appeared to reject a ban by just one vote, according to the latest returns. 73 voters said “no” and 72 said “yes.”

And in the contest in another Baker County town, Unity, over whether to impose a ban on recreational marijuana, only 30 voters appear to have cast a ballot, according to the state. Twenty-one people voted favor of a ban and nine against. According to 2017 census estimates, 69 people live in Unity.