Local News: Astoria considers marijuana possession ordinance for city parks

At Monday’s Astoria City Council meeting, councilors debated an ordinance proposal regarding marijuana in city parks, among other business. Joanne Rideout reports:

Scroll down to listen: [2:53].

Script here:

Astoria city manager Brett Estes explained the proposal, which came from the Astoria Police Department.

Brett Estes: “An ordinance has been proposed for council review this evening, to make possessing marijuana illegal in city parks. The current city ordinance only restricts the use of marijuana, not possession.”

Exceptions would be made for medical marijuana and non-intoxicating derivatives such as CBD.

Police would like to use the law as an enforcement tool.

Here’s Astoria Police Chief Geoff Spalding:

Geoff Spalding: “Typically it’s not something that we’re going to see. You can’t search somebody just because you suspect they have marijuana on them. So it would be as a result of us coming contact with somebody and they have it out in the open, or if somebody were searched as a result of some other action.”

Councilor Joan Herman said she thought the ordinance might be problematic because state law allows for possession in public, but not use.

Other councilors said they were did not understand specifically how such a law would help police do their jobs more effectively.

During the public comment period, Rick Bowers and Nelle Moffet, board members of the Astoria Warming Center, expressed concern about a disparate impact of the ordinance on the homeless, since homeless people must carry all their possessions with them wherever they go.

Councilor Jessamyn West:

Jessamyn West: “I did a lot of research on the agenda as part of the current laws, so I’m just trying to understand how this would help. I don’t know if there is a way to look at it again, maybe after we are presented with some examples of how, and why this is on the agenda.”

The council decided, upon advice from city attorney Blair Henningsgard, to table the proposed ordinance until a future meeting and invited Chief Spalding to provide concrete examples of how the new law would help police with enforcement.

In other council business, councilors held a first reading of a second proposed ordinance to enact an open container law throughout the city regarding alcoholic beverages. The proposal was inspired by an increase in public intoxication. Currently under city law it’s illegal to drink alcohol in public except at permitted events within city limits. The new proposed law could make having an open container, such as a beer, illegal as well. Councilors express unanimous support for the law and voted to have a second reading of the proposed ordinance at their next meeting.

City procedure for adoption of new regulations is that the council will have a first reading and discussion that includes public comment, and they can then decide whether the table a proposal for further discussion, or send it on through the enactment process for a second reading. At the second reading after an opportunity for further discussion and public comment, the council can have a vote on t he ordinance or amendment.

The council also discussed amending a city ordinance regarding burglar alarms to remove a $50 penalty for accidental triggering of an alarm system, a city side walk project slated for Hwy 202 in city limits, and repairs of landslide damage in the Bridge Vista area housing development.

I’m Joanne Rideout reporting.