Corvallis Just Says No

by Denise Ruttan

potleafCorvallis City Council decided to “just say no” to allowing cannabis operations on city-owned property—at least for now.

The council had asked staff to look into the issue after several cannabis businesses had expressed interest in leasing space in Corvallis’ Airport Industrial Park. Some could argue it’s ironic that this parcel is already home to a cidery and a meadery. So in some vaporous future, could happy hour at the industrial park also include certain herbal refreshments?

Don’t count on it any time soon. That’s because recreational weed has arisen as the latest battle in the push-and-pull drama of states’ rights versus federal law. The Federal Aviation Administration gave the industrial park land to the city years ago. As such, the FAA now provides some grants for Corvallis. But federally, marijuana isn’t legal. This complication has given city officials pause, as recreational weed is legal come July in this state.

As Oregon looks toward developing new administrative rules in advance of that change, cities are wading through quandaries such as this.

To best navigate through that smoky haze, the council asked Tom Nelson, the city’s economic development manager, to prepare a report on the topic, presented April 6.

Council member Mike Beilstein liked the way a port in Washington used a contract clause that could terminate lease agreements if federal authorities deemed they were in violation of grant obligations.

Council member Joel Hirsch, on the other hand, recused himself from the discussion, saying he was considering investing in some cannabis-related businesses.

Council members asked deputy city attorney David Coloumbe to weigh in on legal considerations, but he nipped that in the bud.

“I can’t advise you fully on what the implications would be other than to inform you that marijuana is a controlled substance that is illegal under federal law,” Coloumbe said. “There are layers of complications with respect to state and federal enforcement, what they may do now and what they can do later. It’s a topic for a robust conversation, maybe at a committee level and a follow-up in executive session.”

Four state-licensed cannabis dispensaries currently operate within city limits, although on privately owned property.

The council handed off the matter to both the administrative services and the airport advisory committees for further discussion.