Newport Votes for Moratorium on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Newport on Monday approved a moratorium of up to one year on medical marijuana dispensaries. (File photo)

By Larry Coonrod

NEWPORT—Acting on recently passed legislation, the Newport City Council on Monday approved a moratorium of up to one year on medical marijuana dispensaries.

City Manager Spencer Nebel recommended the council approve the temporary ban to allow staff time to write rules covering the facilities’ operations. The state’s medical marijuana dispensary law took effect March 1. To date, two operations have applied for Newport business licenses.

The state legislature early this month passed Senate Bill 1531, giving local governments the ability to stipulate hours of operation, reasonable limitations on where medical marijuana dispensaries may be located within a city and reasonable conditions on the manner in which the dispensaries may dispense marijuana.

Senate Bill 1531 also allows city and county governments to place a moratorium on dispensaries until May 1, 2015.

Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda in February requested the council enact a moratorium. 

Miranda told the council he is concerned that state rules governing marijuana dispensaries are not well thought out, and that the state lacks the personnel to enforce them.

”The state is only allocating four people, two of which are clerical and two which will be in the field to inspect all these dispensaries, which means they’ll be up and running before even the first one is inspected, I believe,” Miranda said. 

Spencer said staff could have medical marijuana rules ready for council approval before May 2015, in which case the moratorium would be lifted. 

Anticipating passage of Senate Bill 1531, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners in February passed a similar temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. Board Chair Terry Thompson suggested the commissioners might ask voters to approve any proposed rules. 

The moratoriums do not prevent people with state issued medical marijuana cards from obtaining the drug from their current supplier.

Contact Larry Coonrod by email at [email protected]

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