A lot can change in a month.

Pendleton City Councilor Chuck Wood, who voted to draft a marijuana sales ban Oct. 20, changed his position and voted Tuesday not to support a ban without letting voters have the final say in November 2016, creating a 4-4 stalemate.

Without the requisite five votes, the Pendleton City Council was forced to extend consideration of the ban to the Dec. 1 meeting.

Mayor Phillip Houk opened the public hearing by saying he would only allow members of the public who had not already spoken at the last meeting to voice their support or opposition to the ban.

Two people spoke against the ban, bringing the running total of opponents and supporters to 12-4 — in favor of ban opposers.

Pendleton resident Vaughn Hamby said he went door-to-door to collect opinions on the proposed marijuana bans, with many people he talked with critical of the city’s campaign to pass a 5-cent gas tax while potentially denying tax revenue from marijuana sales.

Hamby said Pendleton could put regulations in place that ensured marijuana businesses did not overtake the city, like the caps some Colorado cities put on the number of marijuana retailers that could be located in their towns.

If the council wasn’t in favor of full-on marijuana sales legalization, Hamby said a referring the issue to Pendleton’s citizenry was the next best option.

“I believe (council members) want what’s best for the community,” he said. “Put it up to us. Make us decide.”

After the public hearing was closed, Councilor Al Plute quickly made a motion to amend the ordinance banning marijuana, replacing a indefinite ban with a temporary one that would last until the November 2016 election.

The councilors that supported a ballot referral — Plute, Jane Hill and McKennon McDonald — gained a new ally in Wood.

Explaining his change of heart, Wood said he took a deeper look in to the Measure 91 elections data, which revealed the vote to legalize marijuana in two out of the three voting wards in Pendleton was closer than the 63-37 percent result in Umatilla County would suggest.

He also solicited input on his Facebook page and the feedback he received gave him additional anecdotal evidence.

“I tell you what, I voted against (Measure 91). But this is not my personal agenda, this is the agenda of the citizens,” he said.

Councilor Tom Young warned the council that if anybody eventually voted in favor of marijuana dispensaries, it would violate their oath as city councilors, which specifically prompts them to uphold federal law.

Young joined councilors Neil Brown, Becky Marks and John Brenne in voting against the amendment.

Because the vote was on an amendment and not the ordinance itself, Houk was allowed to break the tie and cast a vote.

He voted against the amendment, defeating it 5-4.

“Once this passes, then it goes into ordinance form and you still got 4-4,” he said. “I will not support just moving it forward for no reason. You need to get five councilors on board one way or the other.”

Proponents of a voter referendum were not pleased.

“I see that the votes are here to enact a ban, and the votes that are opposing the amendment are only opposed to having citizen input,” Hill said. “If you truly believe that the community is opposed to both recreational and medicinal marijuana, then there is zero risk to referring it to the voters.”

Although the stalemate was already well established, the council was required to vote on the unamended ordinance that indefinitely banning marijuana. It, too, resulted in another 4-4 tie.

In accordance with city charter, Houk was not allowed to break the tie and the ordinance was referred to the next meeting.

Houk said it was in the city council’s best interest to negotiate a compromise amongst themselves.

If the council doesn’t enact a temporary or indefinite ban by the end of the year, state law dictates it loses that power permanently.

The council also voted to postpone a vote on an ordinance enabling street utility fees to the Dec. 15 meeting.


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

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