Marijuana businesses remain against the law in Umatilla County.
The county board of commissioners voted 3-0 Wednesday in favor of continuing the moratorium on medicinal marijuana dispensaries and other pot-related businesses. The local law went into effect as soon as the board adopted it.
The vote came during a public hearing and supported the recommendation from the county’s marijuana study committee, which also wanted the county board to adopt new land use regulations. The board also plans to do that.
Commissioner and board chair George Murdock said no one spoke against the moratorium, which the board first implemented in April 2014. That shut down the two medicinal pot dispensaries that were operating in the county’s jurisdiction.
Murdock also shared a statement he presented during the hearing.
In spite of encouragement from the media and some local citizens to approve marijuana sales, Murdock said, the oath of office commissioners take binds them to uphold state and federal laws, and commissioners represent the interests of the county’s voters.
“Roughly 70 percent of those voters indicated at the ballot box they were opposed to the legalization of marijuana,” Murdock stated.
Election records show almost 63 percent of Umatilla County voters in November 2014 opposed Measure 91, the law that won statewide approval to legalize recreational marijuana. The 2015 Legislature changed that law with House Bill 3400, which allows local governments to prohibit marijuana businesses in counties where at least 55 percent of voters shot down Measure 91.
Murdock said he applauded the Legislature for creating the opt out for rural Oregon. He stressed it was OK for Eastern Oregon and the Portland-metro area to have different values.
“My neighbors don’t pride themselves on being weird,” Murdock said. “In fact, these same individuals also don’t line the streets of Pendleton, Hermiston or any other local community to celebrate nude bike rides.”
Murdock also said while people believe in the merits of medical pot, he saw no valid research backing those claims.
In other action, the commissioners voted 3-0 to place ballot drop boxes in Athena, Pilot Rock, Stanfield and Umatilla. This came in response to the U.S. Postal Service closing its distribution center in Pendleton. Local mail now can take up to a week to arrive, Murdock said, so drop boxes in Athena, Pilot Rock, Stanfield and Umatilla — all cities with at least 1,000 residents — will help ensure citizens can vote on time. He said the county is working with the cities on finding a secure and public space for the boxes.
And the board delayed a vote to allow all-terrain vehicles on certain roads in the northeast section of the county. Some ranchers and farmers, he said, were concerned ATV drivers could ride onto their lands. Murdock said voting on the issue now would have been hasty. Commissioner Bill Elfering will head up a group to look at the issue.