Medford City Council Bans Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Tue, October 15 2013 at 7:01 PM, Updated: Wed, October 16 2013 at 12:42 AM

It's a no go. The Medford City Council has decided they won't allow medical marijuana dispensaries to pop up in city limits. It flies in the face of a new law that would allow dispensaries statewide.

"We find it very unfortunate," began Anna Johnson with Southern Oregon Alternative Medicine.

"It's affecting thousands of patients in our area that are sick and need to get medicine relief."

In September, the City Council unanimously voted to effectively ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

"We think that this is right thing to do for the community," said Daniel Bunn, Medford City Councilman for Ward 4.

It's a hit for organizations like Southern Oregon Alternative Medicine. They were planning to open a dispensary in March.

"We see the need patients have to get their medicine in a legal structured way, so yes, of course we were planning on doing something like that," said Johnson.

Medical marijuana is legal in Oregon, but not legal federally. That's what Daniel Bunn says played into the council's decision.

"The city council has had a history of interpreting our business license policy to not allow activity that is unlawful," he said.

Legislators we spoke to say the bill was put together to put medical marijuana programs under control, make it a safer system and reduce the criminal or black market element.

"The current medical marijuana system we have right now is a joke. I don't think it's going to last long term," began Bunn.

"I don't think the legislature got it right," he continued.

However, Johnson says she thinks the council's call is premature since the state's rule-making committee still hasn't come back with regulations.

"We have approval from our state legislature, our governor, and we even have a letter from the Federal Government saying they were not going to get involved with dispensaries as long as it was conducted correctly," she pointed out.

"A league of cities endorsed it. Most police officers in the state endorsed it. Medford's kind of an outlier saying "no" to this," said Senator Alan Bates (D-Medford).

"Getting it under better control through dispensaries, getting it under control through certified farms, restricting it to people over 21 is I think a step in the right direction," Bates continued.

Bates added that he thinks officials should be focusing more of their time curbing the use of dangerous drugs like opiates and heroin.

Meanwhile, Bunn says the council is willing to reconsider in the future.

Until then, Johnson with Southern Oregon Alternative Medicine says they'll continue helping patients and waiting on a greenlight to open a dispensary.

Despite the city's move to ban dispensaries, according to Representative Peter Buckley (D-Ashland), the state's law trumps city ordinances. Buckley said he checked with the legislature's legal counsel and found that if the city tries to stop an Oregon Health Authority-approved dispensary, the issue will be brought to court and the city would most likely lose. 

The state law allowing medical marijuana dispensaries won't go into effect until March of 2014.

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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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