The Ashland City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to change the language in the City Municipal Code regarding the legality of businesses. The issue stems from the growing number of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries looking to open in cities throughout Oregon. Last night’s meeting is available on the City website and is chaptered here to provide easy access to the Code amendment discussion.
The Council heard and discussed an ordinance amending Ashland Municipal Code Chapter 6.04 regarding Business Licenses. Currently, the Ashland Municipal Code states that the City will not issue a business license to any business engaged in an “unlawful activity.” This issue comes to the fore at this time because the Oregon Legislature in 2013 passed HB 3460, which makes medical marijuana dispensaries explicitly legal and establishes certain conditions under which they must operate. Such dispensaries are an “unlawful activity” under federal law. This proposed code amendment removes the “unlawful activity” provision from the business license code, thus relieving City staff of the potentially awkward responsibility for possibly having to shut down a business that is explicitly legal and regulated under state law.
In 2012 the City of Ashland denied a business license for a dispensary operation on Hersey Street, forcing that applicant to open in a different city that did not have the “unlawful activity” clause in a business license. Since then, the 2013 Oregon Legislature passed HB 3460, sponsored by Rep. Peter Buckley, D.- Ashland, to provide a regulatory regimen for these new businesses. This amendment in the Ashland code is intended to update the language to reflect these new ventures, which are legal by state law, but still in potential conflict with Federal law.