The La Grande City Council is considering placing a measure on the ballot of the Nov. 6 election that, if approved, would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana within the city limits.

The council discussed this possibility at a work session Monday. At the request of Mayor Steve Clements, the council did not address the pros and cons of legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana or whether a measure legalizing it should be placed on the ballot, but rather focused on what process would need to be followed if a measure were to be placed on the November ballot.

The council agreed via consensus to move forward on this issue with a work session on March 19. At that time, the council will be presented with information on what impact legalizing the retail sale of marijuana might have on
La Grande. The information will be provided by city staff and possibly outside experts.

The discussion will include information on how the legal sale of recreational marijuana has impacted other cities in Northeast Oregon, how much local and state marijuana sale tax revenue La Grande might expect to receive, how impaired driving rates and crime rates could be affected by legalizing recreational pot, and what additional law enforcement services might be needed.

A number of the city councilors said that information like this would be very welcome.

“There are a lot more things we need clarity on,” said Councilor Nicole Howard.

Councilor Mary Ann Miesner said it will be critical that the information is provided by people who are objective.

“We need people who have expertise in an area, not opinions,” she said.

The sale of recreational marijuana has been a controversial issue in Northeast Oregon since voters across the state legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in 2014 by passing Measure 91. In 2015, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 3400, which gave cities in counties in which at least 55 percent of voters opposed Measure 91 — including Union County — the opportunity to opt out of allowing recreational marijuana sales. The sale of recreational marijuana has remained illegal in cities whose councils voted to opt out, as La Grande’s council did.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer