Oregon is on the brink of legalizing recreational weed, but some citizens do not want the drug sold in their towns. Many municipalities have already banned medical marijuana facilities, but now the state legislature is telling them they can't do that. Oregon's Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill on Thursday clarifying that municipalities can regulate pot dispensaries like they would any other business, but they can't ban them outright.
Democratic state Sen. Floyd Prozanski explained that the law allowing medical dispensaries, passed last year, did not allow municipalities to ban the shops. But the new bill, SB 1531, makes that clearer. It also sets up the state to legalize recreational weed. If the bill passes the state House, recreational weed will go on the ballot in 2014. Oregon's citizens will then decide whether they want more pot in the state.
Pot prohibitionists are, of course, upset. And the state Senate bill doesn't get at the tension between federal and state law, which is the root of most problems involving marijuana legalization. Currently, as the AP explains it, "local governments can’t be forced to license a business that is essentially a criminal enterprise under federal law, but state law does not let them prohibit the businesses either." Since the Senate bill does not allow municipalities to ban the dispensaries, "local governments will have to fight the state in court for that authority." So things look good for medical dispensaries and future recreational shops right now, but court battles could come later.
Colorado and Washington are having similar debates. Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is known as the "evangelical Vatican," successfully banned weed commerce. And Yakima County, Washington plans to ban dispensaries once legal weed goes into effect in the state. Yakima city council member Dave Ettl told The New York Times in January, "There’s some money that’s not worth getting." Washington will begin selling recreational weed in June.