PRAIRIE CITY – A show of hands at a recent Prairie City town hall spoke volumes about residents’ sentiments on the pot business issue.
The Prairie City City Council hosted the Sept. 9 town hall meeting to discuss “opting out” of Senate Bill 460, early sales of marijuana within the city limits, and hear citizens’ opinions on the topic.
The gathering drew a crowd of about 50 residents, filling the Strawberry Grange Hall.
Mayor Jim Hamsher told those attending the city had several choices – to allow either, neither or both recreational marijuana businesses and medical dispensaries to operate in town.
Hamsher said Prairie City could say “no” and still opt back in later, but if they choose to opt in now, there would be no going back later. He said the city would be able to say where and when such establishments could operate, but added, “a lot of issues haven’t even been addressed yet.”
The city council has chosen to wait and see first what other regional and statewide towns do, with the intent to save the city money spent unnecessarily on legal fees, Hamsher said.
He said prospective marijuana business owners can’t even apply for a license until July 2016.
One benefit is sales taxes the city would reap; however, that percentage is based on population, making it difficult to determine now just how much money is at stake.
Hamsher pointed out there are other ways for the town to raise revenue.
Sandi Rennels said, “We cannot allow this just because of money.”
“What’s it going to cost to implement?” Carla Teague asked, suggesting Prairie City “let the dust settle and let other towns be the guinea pigs.”
Chris Lewallen said people should realize tax money the town would receive from marijuana businesses is designed to help with regulatory and administrative costs and “isn’t entirely free money.”
Councilor Les Church reminded the crowd of the “black market” pot business, and said not allowing marijuana businesses to operate legally in town, would be like saying “I want the black market to proliferate.”
Some continued to express concerns it would “change the face of our community” and “be a distraction and deterrent.”
Near the end of the discussion, Hamsher asked those present who would prefer the town opt out. Hands shot up from the majority of those present.
Regardless of the decision on marijuana sales and businesses, people are able to legally possess and grow up to four plants for personal use in Oregon, effective July 1.