Imbler voters will have a hot-button issue on their election ballots in November.

The Imbler City Council has directed the City of Imbler to place a measure on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election that would prohibit the sale, production and processing of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes in Imbler.

The city council voted in June to place the marijuana measure on the Nov. 6 ballot. The City of Imbler is now working with its legal counsel and the Union County clerk’s office to take the necessary steps to get the measure on the ballot.

While Oregon voters legalized the sale of recreational marijuana by passing Measure 91 in 2014, the sale of it has remained illegal in Imbler because all land within the city limits is within 1,000 feet of its schools. State law prohibits recreational or medical marijuana from being sold within 1,000 feet of a school.

Still the door remains open for marijuana to be grown and processed in Imbler. This was evident in the spring of 2017 when a La Grande entrepreneur, Scott Nearing, the owner of Eastern Oregon Medical Extracts, expressed interest in opening a medical marijuana processing plant in Imbler. The businessman decided against pursuing the project, though, after determining that it would be too expensive to open a plant in Imbler. Nearing told the city council that none of the available commercially zoned land in Imbler where a medical marijuana processing plant could operate currently has a building that could house the operation. He said paying for the construction of a new building would not be financially feasible.

Word of the businessman’s initial proposal created an uproar in Imbler. He announced he would not build a marijuana processing plant at a city council meeting attended by about 70 people, the majority of whom were from Imbler, said Imbler Mayor Mike McLean said.

Although the council did not take input from those attending that meeting, McLean said he believed that the majority were opposed to having a marijuana processing plant in town. At least two people at the meeting held up signs reading “No Marijuana in Imbler!”

Imbler does not have a past history of supporting marijuana at the ballot box. In the 2014 November election, voters in Imbler opposed Measure 91, 113 to 43.

All sales of marijuana in Oregon are taxed by the state. The marijuana tax revenue is then redistributed to municipalities including cities, law enforcement agencies and schools. The City of Imbler will not receive this funding if the measure opting out of Measure 91 is approved by voters.

“We will lose revenue from the state (if the measure passes),” McLean said.

The measure may be one of two addressing marijuana voters will decide on in Union County Nov. 6. A citizen-led initiative to let voters decide if recreational marijuana dispensaries should be banned in La Grande began circulating this week. The initiative’s co-sponsors, Chris Jennings and David Moyal, have about 1-1/2 weeks to gather 1,200 signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.

The citizen-led La Grande initiative started after the city council reversed course in May and voted 6-1 to leave its marijuana dispensary-banning ordinance as it is. This followed a 5-2 vote in April to take steps toward repealing the ban and let residents decide if the city’s marijuana ordinance should be repealed.

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