Eugene, Oregon, May Adopt Buffer Zone Between Marijuana Shops

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The Eugene City Council is considering whether to establish a minimum distance between marijuana shops, with a potential ordinance requiring a buffer zone of at least 1,000 feet for new marijuana retailers.

The idea stems from concern that a high concentration of pot shops will thwart the city’s effort to revitalize downtown. Meanwhile, owners of existing pot shops say the proliferation of retailers in a relatively small area could put them out of business.

The Register-Guard reports that a buffer zone was discussed last spring, then dropped.

Councilor Emily Semple, who represents downtown, resurrected the proposal because of public opposition to the prospect of more shops.

As of last week, state regulators have granted a total of 50 licenses to retail pot shops in Eugene.

Most are within 1,000 feet of another shop, with many of them downtown, said Mike McKerrow, a city land- use analyst who spoke before council.

In response to a question about crime, McKerrow said a Eugene police analysis showed it was “almost negligible” in pot shops. Crimes within 1,000 feet of those businesses decreased by 25 percent during a six-month period in 2017 compared with the same period in 2014, before the shops opened, he said.

The council voted 4-2 to direct the city manager to schedule a public hearing.

“Certainly Eugene is not against marijuana, but I believe we could have sufficient supply with the buffer,” Semple said.

Councilors Alan Zelenka and Betty Taylor voted no.

“It sure looks like what we’re trying to do is limit competition and deal with people’s perceptions about pot stores, and both of those bother me from a government-intervention standpoint,” Zelenka said.