Conflict brewing between state, cities on medical marijuana dispensaries

A member of a committee drafting rules for Oregon's medical marijuana dispensary law cautioned any potential operators to be aware of local bans on pot clinics.

Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett said municipalities would argue they have the right to ban businesses that violate federal drug laws.

"I think people ought to be aware of these issues, before they step out on a ledge and waste their time and money," he said during the committee's Monday meeting in Salem.

Bovett is one of 13 members of a rule-making committee that is fleshing out the administrative and technical details of House Bill 3460, which authorizes medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon.

The cities of Medford and Tualatin have both banned them in anticipation of dispensaries being able to operate after March 2014.

Medford already has attempted to revoke the business license of MaryJane's Attic and MaryJane's Basement over allegations the owners are unlawfully dispensing medical marijuana. The owners have appealed the decision.

State Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who co-authored the dispensary law, said local bans likely will get resolved in the courts, but he believes his law and the rules being devised clearly prohibit local jurisdictions from outright bans.

Under HB 3460, dispensaries can operate only in areas that are zoned for agriculture, industrial or commercial. They also must be tested to ensure the cannabis is free of pesticides or chemicals.

Buckley said cities will be able to determine the time, place and manner of operation.

"No matter how we see these legal issues coming down, people should check with their local cities," Buckley said.

The dispensaries will receive permission to operate from the Oregon Health Authority.

Buckley said the state will not take the city of Medford to court over its ban. He said the issue will go to the courts when someone tries to open a dispensary in Medford and then Medford tries to ban it from operating.

Geoff Sugerman, another member of the rule-making committee, said any potential operator of a dispensary should check in with a local jurisdiction to make sure the proposed location of the clinic has the right zoning.

He said it was never the intention of the authors of HB 3460 to allow cities the ability to ban dispensaries outright.

"It's leaving them wide open for legal challenges," Sugerman said.

He said the dispensaries are also authorized under Senate Bill 863, which gives the state the authority to regulate agricultural crops and businesses.

Sugerman said his reading of the law is that it requires authorization of a clinic only from the state, not local jurisdictions.

"The law does not require them to have a business license," he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Share This Story