I heard that Oregon cities and counties are passing commercial marijuana bans, and others are passing oppressive rules. Is Portland safe?
YES, IT LOOKS good. Oregon law allows cities and counties to ban commercial cannabis activity only in certain circumstances. For example, if a county opposed Measure 91 (the legalization initiative) by 55 percent or more, the county or any of its cities can prohibit most commercial marijuana activity. If less than 55 percent opposed the measure, any proposed ban would go to a local vote.
In Multnomah County, an impressive 71 percent of us voted "yes" on Measure 91. Even if local officials wanted to proscribe commercial marijuana activity, it's highly unlikely that voters would endorse that sort of thing. This isn't to say, however, that Portland couldn't make things hard for local operators. It definitely could.
All of this was prologue when the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI), recently posted draft rules on cannabis regulation and licensing within Portland city limits. To give you an idea of the size of Portland's marijuana footprint already, the city has 148 approved medical marijuana dispensaries (compared to 93 Starbucks). Eugene has 27.
Officially and historically, ONI has been the liaison among Portlanders, their neighborhood associations, and city hall. This means that ONI has been dealing with local beefs related to graffiti, loud noises, and liquor licensing—to name a few dependable beefs—since 1974. ONI now quarterbacks pot and pot beefs too. Fortunately, its proposed rules seem pretty reasonable.
The draft rules cover three main spheres where cities have power to govern commerce: zoning, permits, and "time, place, and manner" restrictions. The latter are restrictions on when, where, and how people can express themselves; or when, where, and how they can trade and use marijuana.
The ONI rules would require anyone who owns 10 percent or more of a marijuana business to submit a "personal history form" and also comply with zoning requirements (for example, no pot activity in residential neighborhoods; none near schools; no clustered strips of shops). Sales may occur daily from 7 am to 9 pm. To the dismay of your busy and lazy friends alike, the rules ban delivery services.
City council will consider the rules on September 16. Council can adopt all, some, or none of the rules, according to its charter. I expect the rules to be adopted wholesale or quite close to it. According to ONI's timeline, the city would accept applications beginning October 1, 2016—one year to the day after early recreational sales begin.
Portland should be nearly as good as it gets for marijuana in Oregon. It is not surprising that the city is watching cannabis closely, just as it does with liquor and other regulated industries. We should expect that to continue, and be glad when Portland mostly gets it right.
Vince Sliwoski is a business, cannabis, and entertainment attorney with Harris Moure. He works with Oregon marijuana businesses of all sizes on licensing, corporate formation, contracts, commercial litigation, and intellectual property. He is a contributing writer to the Canna Law Blog and plans to answer questions here regularly. Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.