To the City Council of Ontario;
I am writing again to urge you to reject recommendations from the Planning Committee and the Ad-Hoc Committee that would unnecessarily reduce economic opportunity in Ontario by instituting extreme buffer zones around the placement of legal marijuana businesses.
The proposal of these buffer zones would seriously limit where marijuana businesses could operate. Not only would the entire Ontario downtown be off-limits, but most, if not all businesses would have to operate in the far east end on the city.
This is not fair to retail commercial property owners who have seen their storefronts go empty for years in Ontario. In addition to locking out other downtown businesses from the benefits of increased foot traffic, there are few available and suitable properties on the east side to set up a new business.
If businesses are going to be legal in Ontario, why would we work to put so many roadblocks in the way of their success? Don’t we want to maximize the tax revenue we receive from these businesses? Don’t we want them to create more jobs and have their workers paying payroll taxes, too? Why would we divert all those shoppers away from our downtown that so desperately needs more foot traffic?
I am a medical marijuana patient and have been a citizen advocate at the legislature for two decades. Our state passed a bill – HB 3460 – that first created retail access for medical marijuana. Gov. Kate Brown signed it with the intent of “provid[ing] safe and reasonable access to patients” for marijuana. Since then, we have legalized recreational marijuana, and those shops are now providing much of the retail access for patients.
Whether the average cannabis consumer must drive to the east end of town isn’t too much worry, but for the sick or disabled person who needs marijuana as medicine, every 100 feet is another burden to overcome. Every buffer from a school, park, or residence just places the source of a patient’s medicine farther away and creates another burden for an already-burdened patient.
I ask you to please maintain the stance you took on the first reading of these recommendations. Keep any proposed buffer zones low, lower, or eliminate them. Keep exempting the downtown parks from any buffer zones so that the downtown businesses can benefit from a neighboring marijuana business, even if that means losing the lease on Moore Park. I’m sure the benefits from a 3% marijuana tax and from hundreds of extra downtown visitors a day will outweigh the costs of maintaining someone else’s private property.
Board Member – Compassionate Oregon