Rosa Cazares thought she might be able to change the minds of the Rockaway Beach City Council.
Just minutes after the council voted unanimously to ban recreational sales by any licensed medical marijuana dispensary in the city and move the proposed ordinance forward to a second reading in September, Casarez was positive things would change.
By Brad Mosher
“I completely disagree with their decision,” she said after returning to La Mota, the dispensary she opened just days earlier. “I feel like they are missing out on tax revenue for the city. La Mota is a very professional organization and we will do anything to change their minds.
“We won’t give up. I feel like eventually we will be open for recreational sales.”
The vice president of La Mota explained that she thought she might see some changes after the business had been open for a few months.
It took much less time than Cazares expected for the changes.
Less than 48 hours after the council’s decision on Aug. 12, Cazares found herself in a new world where there was not going to be a city ordinance to ban the recreational sales.
The whirlwind of change started Friday morning when Mayor Joanne Aagaard announced her resignation.
Just a few hours later, Lars Gare, the city manager for Rockaway Beach, announced the proposed ordinance had been removed from the agenda for the City Council’s Sept. 9 meeting.
In addition, he announced that no further action was planned by the city regarding recreational sales from licensed medical dispensaries.
Those changes Friday open the doors literally for recreational sales at La Mota starting Oct. 1, according to state law.
“We have seven locations in Oregon,” Cazares said after the meeting. Rockaway Beach now moves into a smaller group of locations where recreational sales will be allowed.
La Mota has facilities in Northeast and Southeast Portland, along with Roseburg, Medford, Shady Grove and Lebanon. Shady Grove has already approved of recreational sales, while the company is battling with the cities of Medford and Lebanon to allow it, Cazares said.
One reason that Cazares was able to be patient after appearing to lose the round in front of the city council was because of the size of the medical use in the resort town and region. “I don’t think it will have a huge impact because of a huge patient base. In the first three days we had 50 local patients.”
She thought it might just be a matter of education that might open the eyes of council in the future.
Mayor resigns citing harassment
Mayor Aagaard sent an email announcing her resignation Friday morning.
She tied the resignation to public response after the most recent City Council meeting where the council moved forward with plans to ban recreational sales of marijuana in the beachfront city. It marks the second straight mayor of Rockaway Beach to resign.
The email stated:
“As of today, August 14th 2015 I, Joanne D. Aagaard resign as Mayor of Rockaway Beach, Oregon.
Since the Council Meeting of Tuesday August 12th, 2015 I have been continually harassed by members of the community due to your decision to approve the Ordinance banning recreational marijuana, without any discussion between the council members.
It was and is my opinion that members of the community should have a forum to state there approval or disapproval of your decision. This was rejected.
It is my hope that something good will come out of this, but I do not want to be a part of any discussions. Evidently many in the community feel that because I am Mayor your decision is my decision. On the contrary I would be on their side, as I do not have any problem with marijuana.”
Aagaard was sworn in as mayor in March 2014, to fill the term left vacant when Danelle Boggs resigned in the fall of 2013.
Just a few hours later, city officials announced the ordinance to ban recreational sales had been removed from the agenda for the Sept. 9 city council meeting.
According to Lars Gare, the city manager, the voters of Rockaway Beach took a clear position on the issue at the last general election. He said the City Council plans no further action on the proposed ordinance.
“The ordinance (#15-426) to prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana by licensed medical marijuana dispensaries had been passed by a unanimous vote Tuesday after its first reading. The city council had scheduled the second reading of the proposed ordinance. If the council had voted the same way after a second reading, the ordinance would have gone into effect. The City Council plans no further action on this proposed ordinance,” the release from the city of Rockaway Beach said.
The city manager said Monday that it was his idea to withdraw the ordinance. “I consulted with the City Council president, Rich Riley.
“I don’t think it will come up again because of the voters,” Gare added.
As it stands, the city has not passed an ordinance dealing with its ability to tax the sale of recreational marijuana, according to Gare.
Raucous meeting causes controversy
The Rockaway Beach City Council decided to take the first step to ban recreational marijuana sales in the city on Aug. 12 in a meeting marked with vocal disagreement from members of the audience and sharp comments from the mayor.
Mayor Joanne Aagaard told the capacity crowd attending the meeting that she would allow just one person to speak to the council. Councilman Rich Riley added that the council can limit speakers to avoid redundant testimony.
But that cutting public comment to just one person made Miel Macassey of Rockaway Beach angry. “How do you know what is redundant before we speak. We are different people,” she said, interrupting the mayor. “This is a public meeting,” she added, speaking over the mayor.
The mayor then selected Casarez to be the only speaker, with a three-minute limitation. “I am not going to allow everyone to speak,” the mayor stressed. That prompted further reaction from some of the people who had hoped to speak to the council.
The mayor told the audience that it was not a public hearing. “It doesn’t say anywhere this is a public hearing. I am allowing one person to speak (Casarez) to speak. The rest of you will have to be quiet. I am allowing her to speak so the council gets a little bit of information.”
According to Macassey, the decision to limit the public input was disappointing. The Rockaway Beach resident said after the meeting concluded that she can not drive so her husband has to drive her two hours to Portland and two hours back. “Because of that, we don’t even buy our groceries here or in Tillamook. We buy them in Portland.”
She said the trips were draining both physically and financially. “I would much rather do our buying locally.”
She said she is a medical marijuana user. “I have tried every pharmaceutical… Those do not work as well as the marijuana.”
She also praised the people who opened La Mota in Rockaway Beach as being “very professional.”
According to the city attorney, John Putman, city council meetings in Oregon are public participation, not public hearings. That allows the mayor and the council to decide how much the public input to allow at a meeting.
Early input for council
At the May 13 council meeting, the council discussed the dispensary when a resident brought it up.
The woman said that she was concerned because she thought Rockaway Beach was a family town.
Gare explained that a medical marijuana dispensary was a legal use and as long as zoning allowed that use, the city would be obligated to give them a business license.
“They also have to go through a licensing procedure with the state of Oregon and that includes an inspection of the facilities – their lights, their security and all that sort of thing before they can get a … license,” Gare said.
“The business license is conditional on them getting approval from the state to operate the establishment.
“If it doesn’t violate any of restrictions or covenants by the state statutes…,” the city manager said explaining the dispensary’s legal business status. “The recreational marijuana is something else again. The rules still haven’t been promulgated by the state about that. That is a whole different issue, not to be confused with the medical side.”
According to the city attorney, the city is still bound by what the state allows legally.