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Marijuana ban could be on Milton-Freewater ballot next year

Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on September 22, 2015 12:01AM

Last changed on September 22, 2015 9:12PM

In November 2014 Oregon voters legalized marijuana sales and possession, but 62 percent of Milton-Freewater voters cast their ballot against the measure.

Those same voters could get a chance to institute a local ban on marijuana sales in November 2016 ­— or collect their share of Oregon marijuana taxes and opt to join their neighbors just across the state line with legal sales.

According to the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, the Milton-Freewater City Council voted 5-1 to have staff draft an ordinance banning the sale, growth, production and processing of medical and recreational marijuana given voter approval.

City Manager Linda Hall told the East Oregonian that staff will present the draft to the council at the Oct. 26 meeting, where the council will consider committing to the ballot measure.

While voters could feasibly re-ban marijuana sales within Milton-Freewater city limits, it might not stop residents from legally obtaining marijuana and consuming it in the city. Walla Walla’s first recreational marijuana store, Walla Walla Cannabis Co., is currently undergoing the approval process. Another is expected to open soon after.

Although Walla Walla is just minutes away from Milton-Freewater, Hall said neither staff nor the city council discussed the implications of banning marijuana sales while being within easy driving distance of legal cannabis retailers.

“You’re the first person to ask the question, but you’re probably not the first person to think about it,” Hall said to an East Oregonian reporter.

Even though it is illegal to transport marijuana across state lines, police from areas surrounding the first two states to legalize marijuana — Washington and Colorado — have reported that it hasn’t stopped people from legally buying marijuana and consuming it els­ewhere.

Milton-Freewater isn’t the first city in the county to consider going down this path — Hermiston passed similar resolutions in August that could also put a marijuana ban on the November 2016 ballot. Stanfield, Athena, the city of Umatilla and Umatilla County decided to bypass voters altogether and instituted bans on marijuana businesses.

All of these maneuverings were made possible by the members of the Oregon Legislature, who amended Measure 91 in their last session to allow cities and counties to ban marijuana sales through local councils and elections.

Counties — and the cities within them — can ban marijuana sales without voter approval if voters in the county opposed Measure 91 by 55 percent or more. Sixty three percent of Umatilla County voters voted against legalizing marijuana.

Milton-Freewater City Councilman Brad Humbert was the lone vote against pursuing a marijuana ban through the ballot box. In an interview Tuesday, Humbert said his issue wasn’t specifically with marijuana but the increasing intrusion from all levels of government.

Passing a ban would be akin to banning prescription drugs and liquor, Humbert said, and he didn’t want to force residents to break the law by crossing the state line into Walla Walla.

Despite his opposition to another vote on marijuana, Humbert said he was only one voice on the city council. He said he still respected the councilors that supported the desire for the ban.


Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.


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