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East Oregon Cities Banning Commercial Pot Sales

Mark Miller

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Though legalized recreational cannabis has been welcome in western Oregon cities, like Portland, since July 1, more conservative locales in East Oregon are not so enthused about “party pot”. As reported by KTVB-7, cities like Vale, Nyssa and Ontario have either passed or are planning to pass ordinances to prohibit commercial pot sales.

This development is not merely a political move by reactionary legislators. Almost 70 percent of voters in Malheur County voted against Measure 91 in November 2014, which was victorious statewide in legalizing marijuana for adults.

By virtue of Oregon House Bill 3400, cities located in any county that tallied more than 55 percent of the vote against Measure 91 are permitted to ban recreational pot shops. These measures only prohibit commercial sales of pot within a given city’s limits—possession and use of recreational weed remains completely legal throughout Oregon.

For some cities like Vale, officials claim banning ganja storefronts is also a matter of practical necessity because the lack of available space would render it difficult for a weed retailer to comply with the regulations of Measure 91, such as being situated the mandated distance away from schools and medicinal marijuana dispensaries.

However, in some towns like Nyssa, the decades-old prejudice against cannabis appears to be motivating public policy. City manager Roberta Vanderwall complained of people moving to Nyssa from Idaho to become legal pot vendors.

“We don’t want (pot shops) in Nyssa,” Vanderwall said. “We don’t want (shops) in Malheur County, and the reason is we have enough crime as it is.”

On Thursday, the city of Ontario unanimously passed a similar ordinance to prohibit pot stores—though opponents wisely noted that outlawing regulated weed shops will only increase criminal black market sales of cannabis.  Additionally, banning recreational retailers denies the cities and counties much needed tax revenue.

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