Portland's new marijuana task force gets ready for more legal pot

Portland's new marijuana task force gets ready for more legal pot »Play Video
Joshua Alpert is the leader of Mayor Charlie Hales' new marijuana task force.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has put together a new marijuana task force to deal with the growing concern over medical marijuana dispensaries and also in anticipation of the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.

Oregon voters will choose whether to legalize marijuana in November. If the measure passes, retail shops can start getting licenses in 2016.

Joshua Alpert, who is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Mayor, is the leader of the new task force.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” Alpert said.

He’s met with about 20 representatives from a variety of city bureaus four times so far and plans to hold meetings every other week about marijuana in the city.

The first item on the agenda has been dealing with issues created by medical marijuana, which is already legal in Oregon. However, many of the counties and cities surrounding Portland enacted moratoriums, or holds, on selling medical marijuana. That means an influx of dispensaries in Portland.

There are 55 shops open in Portland right now and 71 licenses approved, which is nearly half of all approved licenses in the state of Oregon. Another 30 licenses are pending for Portland.

“They're creating some livability issues in the city,” Alpert said, acknowledging retail shops could run into the same issue. “That was the genesis of the city saying, we really should get ahead of this and figure out what the city can do in terms of regulation.”
Right now the state requires medical marijuana dispensaries to be 1,000 feet away from schools, and the new recreational marijuana initiative is written the same way.

“That doesn't include parks, community centers, or other places kids hang out, so we'll probably want to expand that so we're drawing out a bigger circle where dispensaries can and can't be,” Alpert said.

He’s also looking to Colorado and Washington for lessons learned and already met with the mayor of Vancouver.

“We’re really trying to find balance between respecting will of voters and legal businesses and livability concerns,” he said. “We’re trying to do this in a progressive, responsible way.”

The mayor’s office said the team isn’t costing anything since everyone involved already works for the city.