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Sisters joins medical cannabis debate

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Mar 14 2014 10:43:06 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 15 2014 12:20:21 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with city councilors, Sisters residents and a Sisters medical marijuana patient that travels to Bend to get his medicine.

SISTERS, Ore. -

The battle over medical marijuana dispensaries has made its way to Sisters.

On Thursday night, city councilors voted to explore creating an ordinance to ban the shops, asking their attorney to draw up the language. But it was not unanimous.

"We are a split council -- three in favor of an ordinance and two not," City Council President McKibben Womack said Friday.

And, like any controversy, you'll find folks on both sides.

"They just need to be forward thinking on this," said Sisters resident Theresa Kelly.

Others said Sisters isn't the right kind of town for the medical pot shops.

"It's very family-oriented, lots of little kids running around," said a Sisters woman. "I think they would be better suited in a bigger community."

That's easy to say, if you don't consider medical marijuana critical to your health.

"It helps me through the day," said Sisters resident Thomas Kelly. "It's either go over the edge, or drive to Bend and pick up your medicine."

Kelly said he makes the drive to get his cannabis every couple of weeks.  He said he doesn't mind the trip,  but it adds up.

"It's a $50, $60, $70 savings on gas if you had it here, instead of driving all over the Cascades," he said.

And although city officials say at least one potential shop owner has approached the city, Kelly won't likely won't find any savings soon.

"We don't want to find ourselves in a federal lawsuit," Womack said. "We're considering a law like Redmond's."

The ordinance would require any business operating in the city to follow both state and federal law.

And since marijuana is illegal federally, it would keep businesses in the industry from opening.

Theresa Kelly thinks that's a mistake that could affect everyone.

"I think someone coming up over the mountain might get their (cannabis here) and do a little shopping," she said. "And I know (Sisters is) concerned about the economy."

Oregon cities must decide whether they'll ban the shops by May.

Sisters city councilors are expected to vote on the matter in the coming weeks, Womack is confident the shops will be banned.

Oregon legislators are expected to again debate the legality of allowing cities to ban the shops in their full session next year.

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