Hermiston Voters May Get 2nd Shot at Legalized Pot

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Last November, Oregon voters passed a statewide ballot measure legalizing the use of recreational marijuana for adults.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean recreational marijuana businesses will be able to open for business in every city in the state. Many Oregon cities and counties – including Hermiston and Umatilla County – have placed bans on marijuana operations.

Last year, the Hermiston City Council passed an ordinance banning all pot operations in the city. This week, the council took additional steps to make sure pot won’t be available for sale in the city – but then hedged its bets.

The council passed a resolution that calls for city staff to begin the process of amending Hermiston’s land use ordinance in order to place a ban on all commercial marijuana operations.

The impetus behind the latest resolution is the ongoing legalization of marijuana by individual states and the concern that the federal government may eventually make the drug legal on a national level.

But the council stopped short of declaring it would ban the sale of marijuana within the city after Councilor John Kirwan said he was uncomfortable with the council making that decision when voters could do so themselves.

“This is an opportunity to let the citizens decide in November 2016,” he said.

In November 2014, 62 percent of Hermiston residents voted against the legalization of marijuana, although it passed statewide. Kirwan said he believed a higher turnout during a presidential election would more accurately reflect the view of local citizens.

The council could still decide to ban pot shops itself or let voters decide. That decision will come sometime down the road.

A resolution adopted by the Hermiston City Council Monday could pave the way for a marijuana dispensary ban to go before voters in 2016.

The resolution directed city staff to start the legal process of public hearings and state approvals to amend the city’s land use ordinance to include a ban on all commercial marijuana activity, including businesses that grow, sell, store and process the drug.

At that point the council could choose to adopt the ordinance themselves or place it on the November 2016 ballot.