Could medical marijuana dispensaries boost tourism?

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Thu, February 27 2014 at 6:07 PM, Updated: Thu, February 27 2014 at 6:50 PM

Ashland, Ore. -- Medical marijuana dispensaries will be legal in Oregon on March 3rd.

It's still a hotly debated issue with some cities banning dispensaries and others allowing them.

Since Oregon is on the cusp of medical marijuana dispensary legalization, people are starting to wonder if dispensaries opening up will bring more tourists to our area.

In Ashland, the tourism industry remains king, especially for businesses like Martolli's Hand Tossed Pizza who thrive on it. Over at the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, tourists keep staff busy.

"We have over 100,000 people who access our office on an annual basis," said Sandra Slattery, Executive Director of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.

That's not counting tourists who visit their plaza location or traffic on their website.

"We are a very dynamic organization," she said.

If a medical marijuana dispensary moved into town, Slattery said it's entirely possible tourism in Ashland would benefit. According to law enforcement, anyone with a medical marijuana card, even from out of state, can get cannabis from a dispensary.

Oshia Golden who is a supervisor at Martolli's pizza agrees that a dispensary could help business.

"I believe that it'll really help it especially if it's normal and not this shunned thing," said Golden.

Slattery said the chamber would welcome dispensary owners to be members so long as they're legal and have the proper licensing.

"We think the strength of our membership really lies in the growth and the diversity and the inclusion of so many voices and thoughts," Slattery explained.

However, not everyone is so keen on medical marijuana dispensaries in town. One business owner we spoke with who did not want to go on camera said they're concerned about the clientele who would be in the downtown area. They said they're worried about the negative effect it could have on tourism.

Back at Martolli's pizza, Golden said his outlook is golden, so long as tourism stays strong.

All eyes are on Oregon as we figure out the details surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana dispensaries.

In fact, a New York Times article points out Oregon and Alaska are the two most likely states to legalize marijuana outright.

People across the nation are watching to see how dispensaries play out and what that could mean for the future of marijuana in Oregon.

What do you think? Sound off on our Facebook page and on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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