In November 2014, Oregon residents approved Measure 91, legalizing recreational marijuana. Statewide regulations concerning recreational marijuana were legislated during the 2015 legislative session, and on October 1st, the state will likely see its first sales of legal, recreational marijuana. Initially, only medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to sell recreational marijuana. The state will begin accepting and processing applications for retail establishments interested in selling recreational marijuana at the beginning of 2016.
On September 9th, the City of Albany considered an ordinance to ban the sale of recreational marijuana by dispensaries through the end of 2016, at the earliest. Interestingly, the council’s discussion of this topic was not publicly noticed on the September 9th meeting agenda, which raised a few concerns in the community.
The ordinance passed a first reading (but did not pass unanimously, which would have immediately enacted the measure) triggering a second reading and vote on the ordinance at the council’s September 23rd meeting. If the vote-tally of the first reading is any indication (4-2 in favor of the measure), the ordinance will likely pass, and recreational marijuana sales within the City of Albany will be prohibited until retail establishments are approved by the state, sometime in 2016, and operational.
Some communities throughout Oregon may ban recreational marijuana altogether. Communities in Oregon are allowed to enact bans simply by council vote, if the community is within a county where at least 55 percent of the voters were opposed to Measure 91. Communities not in counties meeting this vote threshold can still attempt to ban recreational marijuana via the referendum process. While the City of Albany hasn’t yet considered the option of referring a marijuana ban to the ballot, City Manager Wes Hare called that “another decision for another day.”
Linn County voters as a whole rejected Measure 91 (Yes – 21,043; No – 23,483). Benton County voters as a whole approved it (Yes- 23,092; No- 15,086). Results from within the City of Albany show slight support for the measure. Measure 91 passed narrowly in Albany (Yes – 9,767; No – 9,393). I tallied precinct results from the twenty-three Linn County precincts and the one Benton County precinct (North Albany) to calculate the overall city results, as well as ward-level results. Most voters expressed a preference on this issue. City-wide, only 217 voters, or 1.12% of the voting population, were undecided and “undervoted” on this measure.
Voters in Wards 1 and 2 approved Measure 91, with Ward 2 having the highest percentage margin in favor of the measure (53% Yes to 46% No). Voters in Ward 3 rejected the measure (47% Yes to 52% No). The bar graph below charts the total city vote with stacked bars for the three wards and the vote totals for each ward labeled.
Additionally, I mapped and graphed the precinct-level results. Click on the image below to load an interactive map. Clicking on a specific precinct should reveal a information balloon containing a bar graph of the vote tally for that precinct. Generally, precincts in “urban core” of Albany voted in favor of Measure 91, while those precincts on the fringe rejected the measure.
Overall, these city-level results present some interesting conclusions. While not under consideration in the current ordinance, these results may be useful for those considering a city-wide referendum on recreational marijuana. While the margin of approval for Measure 91 was slim, voters in the City of Albany did, in fact, approve the measure. If, however, the minds of voters could be changed, or if the voting population in 2014 was biased in favor of supporting Measure 91, then there may be an opportunity for recreational marijuana opponents to ban recreational sales in Albany.
Councilors may be interested in these results, especially those councilors who are interested in representing the will of their voting constituents. The Albany city council is comprised of two councilors per ward. If the councilors voted on the current ordinance in line with the ward results from Measure 91, then the current ordinance will fail. However, the first read of the ordinance passed by a vote of 4-2, with the dissenting votes coming from councilors in Wards 1 and 2. Since voters in Ward 3 rejected Measure 91, it seems unlikely that either of these two councilors would change their votes. Thus, supporters of near-term recreational marijuana sales in the City of Albany may want to focus their lobbying efforts on the two councilors representing Wards 1 and 2 who voted in favor of the recreational ban on September 9th.
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