Max Denning

With less than a month until election day, residents of Joseph are preparing to vote on whether to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. But even if residents decide to allow dispensaries into their town, an ordinance passed in 2015 will severely limit where such a business could be located.

In 2015, Joseph banned medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries in the city after the sale of recreational marijuana was legalized in the state following the 2014 general election. Cities and counties where more than 55 percent of voters voted against recreational marijuana legalization in 2014 were allowed to opt out of the sale of recreational marijuana. Joseph was one of 80 cities in Oregon that opted out.

In 2018, Sean Flanagan, owner of The Peace Pipe, which sells smoking paraphernalia in Joseph, and his partner, Michelle Kramer, collected the necessary signatures to get a measure on the ballot to overturn the ban on the sale of recreational marijuana in Joseph.

Medical marijuana facilities are currently banned by Joseph and are not a part of the current ballot measure.

In August, Kramer told The Observer the two main reasons she supports legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana: the benefits for medical consumers and the potential tax revenue.

In addition to the ban, Joseph also passed a zoning ordinance in 2015 that put limitations on where a marijuana dispensary could go. According to the ordinance, a dispensary can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, public library, licensed day care center, community recreation facility attended primarily by minors, a sports facility attended primarily by minors or another marijuana dispensary.

With Joseph having a total area of only 0.88 square miles, this ordinance severely limits the prospects for where a dispensary could be located.

Mayor Dennis Sands said that was the point of the ordinance.

“It was an effort, if (marijuana was eventually) legalized, to minimize the number of outlets,” Sands said.

He also said he doesn’t want the city to resemble other places where marijuana is legalized.

“I don’t want to be like Portland where it seems like there’s a dispensary every other block,” he said.

Sands and other city councilors created a to-scale map of the city and drew circles around locations where a marijuana dispensary would not be allowed. The commercial zones where a dispensary would be allowed are confined to three blocks on Main Street, including East Maple, Poplar and Daggett streets. Sands said there are not currently any available storefronts in that area.

Kramer said she does think it is possible to open a dispensary in Joseph, even with the ordinance’s limits.

“We have the flexibility of either building or working with established (buildings),” Kramer said. “We’ll do what we can. We’re just going to keep fighting until the building is there.”

Dan Stein, who manages Stein Distillery, which is on Main Street north of Maple Street, said he is against having a dispensary anywhere in Joseph.

“I just think there are too many things out there to diminish people’s senses,” he said. “Why make it easier (to buy marijuana)?”

See more in Wednesday's edition of The Observer.