Moms for Marijuana

A group of mothers who fear they could lose custody of their children because of medical marijuana use plans to rally today against efforts to restrict access to the drug or to impose harsh penalties on users.

"We're just mothers who've had enough," said Lindsey Rinehart, a 31-year-old Talent woman who lost custody of her children for 17 days in Idaho earlier this year. "It doesn't help to remove a child from a loving family because of a nontoxic substance."

The loosely formed group Southern Oregon Moms for Marijuana plans to hold a rally at 4 p.m. today on the Jackson County Courthouse steps at 10 S. Oakdale Ave. The rally is one of many rallies held by various chapters of Moms for Marijuana.

Rinehart is one of the co-leaders of the local chapter of Moms for Marijuana, which has about 12 members. She uses medical marijuana to help reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

She said she doesn't know of any local women who have had children taken from them because of medical marijuana issues, though she did cite one case in Portland.

Rinehart is also the director of Undergreen Railroad, a newly formed group which will attempt to help growers and cannabis users relocate to more pot-friendly states.

She said she moved from Idaho to Oregon, assuming this state has a more pot-friendly environment, only to discover that the city of Medford has attempted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

"I can't fathom moving 12 hours from Idaho to obtain safe access to my medicine and have it taken away," Rinehart said.

She obtains her medicine from MaryJane's Attic in Medford, but the city has said it will revoke the company's business license over allegations that it is unlawfully dispensing medical marijuana. The business has appealed the decision.

Medford City Council members say they will rely on federal anti-pot laws to ban medical marijuana dispensaries from setting up shop locally. If successful, that would block implementation in the city of a state Legislature-approved bill that will allow dispensaries to open in the state beginning in March.

Marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law, but federal prosecutors have said users and sellers in states with medical or recreational-use marijuana laws won't be prosecuted by the U.S. government as long as they adhere to the state laws.

Medford's attorney, John Huttl, has told the council that the city is on solid legal ground in denying or revoking a business license based on federal law.

He cited various court opinions that have upheld local jurisdictions as they wrestle with Oregon's medical marijuana law.

However, state Rep. Peter Buckley, an Ashland Democrat who helped write the medical marijuana dispensary bill, maintains state law trumps any local laws that attempt to ban dispensaries.

His view has been supported by a legislative legal counsel committee, which determined the state has authority over medical marijuana dispensaries in light of the new laws approved by the Legislature.

Rinehart said Moms for Marijuana hopes to educate the public about the benefits of medical marijuana and the futility of the decades-long fight over pot.

Moms for Marijuana also will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Friday at Southern Oregon Community Center and Clinic, 816 Bennett Ave., Medford.

Rinehart said she hopes to be able to obtain her medicine safely and to have it treated like any prescribed medication.

"It's not OK to deny safe access," she said. "Society has moved past this point. Let's move on."

In Idaho, Rinehart said, she took 14 pills to control symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Now she uses only medical marijuana for the same relief.

Rinehart said she is careful to keep her medical marijuana out of reach from her children.

"If it's something you choose to use, you need to be responsible," she said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

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