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Another City In Oregon Looking To Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries


oregon medical marijuana dispensaries ban ordinanceAn odd thing is occurring in Oregon. Medical marijuana dispensaries are now legal in the State of Oregon after the passage of HB 3460. Some cities such as Rogue River and Medford have voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries altogether. It sounds like Albany is considering doing the same. What I find odd is that many of these facilities have been operating for multiple years now, with little fanfare, and only after they became legal at the state level are we now seeing such outrage towards them.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been busts, because there have been. And that’s not to say there weren’t opponents before, because there were. However, there were medical marijuana dispensaries in Albany for years now with no problems. It’s only now, since opponents lost in the Legislature and dispensaries are officially legal, that there is this effort to ban them altogether. The battle has moved away from the Legislature and into city halls. Will there be less medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon after they became legal, than there were when they were illegal?

The first municipality I heard of in Oregon banning medical marijuana dispensaries was the City of Rogue River (not sure if it is still in place). It’s a very small town in Southern Oregon. In the absence of state enforcement the City decided to ban dispensaries, which I found interesting considering they were already illegal. The next city I heard of was Medford, which was sad, but really didn’t surprise me. Their law enforcement agencies are some of the biggest anti-marijuana opponents in the state, if not the nation. Now Albany’s City Council is considering it’s options, including an outright ban. Will more cities follow? Only time will tell.

I encourage all of our Oregon readers to contact their city leaders to let them know that you support safe access. Point out to them that these facilities have been operating for quite some time now and it hasn’t led to an increase in crime or problems. Encourage your leaders to pursue worthwhile public policy discussions instead of wasting their time trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Support safe access, not the unregulated black market!


About Author

Johnny Green


  1. What you describe is so different than what we have in New Mexico that it is hard for me to picture. Since our program is regulated by the state, the dispensaries have to pay really high annual fees to the state (depending on how long they have been in business, I think), so as to fund the regulatory apparatus. Which, as you might guess, is just a mess. It appears to this outsider that you have the correct strategy over there in Albany, so I wish ya’ll luck.

  2. I bet if you were to ask these so-called public officials their opinions on a number of issues, they would sound as… misinformed as they do here. I mean, really, these kinds of attitudes in police are very frightening to MMJ patients. If I lived in one of these towns that they are policing with such biased and backward attitudes, I would make sure to avoid them at all costs… perhaps even in a situation where I would need their services. If a crime against me were taking place, why would I call a police officer that would probably treat ME as the criminal because I am an MMJ patient?

  3. I’m not entirely sure we need to make Albany into a progressive stronghold, and that’s really not even our goal. We just want the local officials (read police department) to stop the unprofessional, and frankly immature, mischaracterization of OMMP patients as a justification to blanket prohibit an institution protected by state statute.

    It’s common sense, not political. Marijuana is EASILY accessible and has been as long as I can remember in Oregon. Dispensaries bring a sizable chunk of that marijuana under the watchful eye of law enforcement or other authorities, and yet, they’d rather wage a costly court battle than be involved in drafting legislation to prevent or dampen the negative side effects of dispensaries.

    The facts are simple. Dispensaries cause no more crime than a regular business. OMMP patients are not the alcoholic, drug-addicts the police would have you believe we are. Dispensaries are protected by the state, so much so that they are drafting legislation SPECIFICALLY around how they will operate. We just don’t understand why local authorities continue to cling to these out-dated and ultimately debunked myths around marijuana use instead of actually coming to the table to address the very real concerns of creating a new business structure.

    Imagine if, in the 80’s, Microsoft came up against opposition that computer use causes people to go blind, to become shut-ins, or to choose computer use over family, school, friends, etc. Of course there have been examples over the years of INDIVIDUALS that fall under this criteria, but the vast majority of computer uses do not. It’s the same principle. Dispensaries, like computers then, are here. Marijuana is available and not just via dispensaries. We want it to be available where the city and state can see what we do with it. Transparency is our greatest weapon against illegal trafficking.

    – Greg

  4. The way the state law is written is, at times, contradictory. For example, 475.302 (I think, this is off the top of my head, so I might be off a bit) sets the transfer of medicine from one cardholding member of the program to another as completely okay, “so long as no consideration is given”. In other words, a patient can give, say, a caregiver of another patient their legal limit to carry as long as no money changes hands.

    This is problematic because further down in the law (I think it’s 475.307?) where it addresses growers (who are also cardholding members of the program) and how they can be reimbursed ONLY for the costs to grow the medicine. That same section outlines that the plants are the property of the patient.

    Why this is a problem is that the “costs associated with the production” that can be reimbursed for are not clearly defined in the law. What we, AAHS, have done is say “any costs that DIRECTLY impact the ability to provide medication” can be reimbursed for within the confines of the law. An example would be water or electricity, both vital to the growing of medication indoors.

    Over the past few years, we’ve compiled a slew of statistics from our own grow sites and those of others and have come to a ceiling cost. In other words, we know, approximately, how much it costs to grow in various parts of Oregon and structure our reimbursement to growers around this. We never reimburse for unverifiable costs nor do we reimburse for costs that aren’t allowed under the law (for example, labor is specifically listed in the law as un-reimbursable).

    This is all well and good and under the law just fine. The problem comes in when we then take that medication and try to dispense it to a wide variety of patients who would otherwise have to go to the black market. See, there is no such thing as a free lunch and we have costs associated with being able to provide medication for patients. Where do we fall? While we are registered with the state as growers, we are not growing specifically for the patients we are dispensing to, nor are we dispensing medication we, personally, have grown all the time.

    According to the law, we can get no “consideration” (which, in legal-speak, just means payment for services or products). What we do is tell people our cost to be able to provide them with medication (again, based ENTIRELY on our costs alone with no mind to making a profit in any way), and ask for a reimbursement to cover those costs. Patients can and have refused reimbursement, and they still walk away with medication, because, at the end of the day, we want to operate a zero sum game. As long as we aren’t losing too much money reimbursing growers, we can continue to provide for patients who otherwise have very limited legal access.

    Since “sale” is illegal in Oregon, the city/county/state, whomever, can tack any sales tax they want onto marijuana in Oregon and not see a dime. It’s a catch-22. You pay your sales tax, admitting you sell an illegal-to-sell substance, you go to jail for trying to do your civic duty. Or, you don’t pay your sales tax, since you technically aren’t selling anything, and the city/county/state has done absolutely nothing effectual.

    What we have proposed is for the city to go the route of the state and have a yearly renewed license to operate a dispensary. Cities have to understand that they aren’t going to pay off the construction of a new city hall off dispensary licenses. The real estate problem (can’t be within 1000 feet of schools or each other but can only be in specific zoned areas) will preclude a plethora of dispensaries, especially in a geographically small city like Albany. So a $100-$300 a year license is A) affordable for a dispensary, B) in line with most licensing costs, C) gives a little bit of extra revenue to the city, and, most importantly, D) puts licensed dispensaries in Albany on the radar and under the scrutiny of city officials.

    Follow the law, or lose the license. It’s as simple as that. HB3460, so far, is shaping up to be a great bill with clear definitions of what can and cannot be done regarding dispensaries. The more it evolves, the more we like it (with the exception of “no use on site” – but we have a proposal for that as well). It’s not difficult to follow the rules, nor would it be difficult for the city to ensure compliance with random compliance inspections (paid for, preferably, by dispensary licensing fees).

    As always, the bottom line is that city leaders, understandably so, are afraid to wade in on a political hot-potato, out of fear of alienating the folks that put them in office. Better to blanket prohibit and stick your head in the sand. The problem here, though, is that this isn’t California. This is Oregon. The state’s legal council has stated municipalities are precluded from banning dispensaries, so if a city or county goes that route, they better get the checkbook out, because legal fights aren’t cheap and patients in the program have a motivation I think few “leaders” really understand. This is a political issue to them. This is OUR LIFE to us.

    Law enforcement, thus far, have been beyond useless to the point of putting themselves on the level of “annoying gnat”, since they, repeatedly contribute nothing constructive to the conversation. Their stance so far has been to refuse to meet with OMMP advocates, and instead rely on misinformation and, essentially, name calling. As though their target audiences are as Mr. Munoz below describes Albany. I don’t think the people of Albany or Linn county are as “backwards” or “idiotic” as Mr. Munoz or the police department seems to believe them to be.

    Less face the harsh reality here: the city’s hands are, essentially, tied because of the state’s stance regarding the legality of dispensaries. Medford and a few other cities fancy themselves above the state law and have thrown themselves at the fore to try to prove that in court. They will fail and when they do, they will have given their opponents unfettered reign to operate as they please under ONLY the state law, which is still vague in some areas.

    We would like, and have been trying since day one, to preempt this in Albany by working with the city to enact local regulations and policies that address legitimate concerns our opponents have without preventing our patients from having safe access to their medication.

    Why is this such a hard thing for our “leaders” to work with us on? Is there something more pressing coming to Albany? If you believe the police department, dispensaries are the worst evil ever to come to Albany, so why not work with the “inevitable” organization to make sure your concerns are addressed, instead of letting OTHER COMMUNITIES dictate how things will go in OUR city? Words cost nothing.

    – Greg

  5. Nek,

    That’s great, good to know people we haven’t even met yet are behind us. There was a great article in yesterday’s Albany Democrat Herald paper about our organization and one in Corvallis to whom we are going to be reaching out to. Unfortunately, there also was a disheartening op-ed signed by the Linn County sheriff, undersheriff, Albany police chief, Sweet Home police chief, and Lebanon police chief in which they describe medical marijuana patients as someone “with no chronic illness and a history of drug and alcohol abuse” who “just want to get high and are abusing Oregon’s medical marijuana system to do so.”

    About 60,000 people in the state of Oregon are in the OMMP. That’s a whole lot of drug addicted, alcoholic liars and con-people who, somehow, convinced Medical Doctors to sign a statement which is then submitted to the state, putting their medical practice under scrutiny… all so someone with “no chronic illness” can just get high.

    Needless to say, we will be aggressively campaigning against the re-election of these people, where applicable, and against those county or city managers involved in the appointment of these people who clearly disdain the people they are here to “serve and protect”. I am submitting a fairly long letter to the editor today so that the people of Albany and surrounding areas are clued in to the misinformation and personal slander campaigns our supposed law enforcement officials are running, in lieu of actual statistical data.

    There are legitimate concerns regarding the rolling out of dispensaries and we want to be at the fore to address and overcome those. Saying asinine, simply stupid statements like “We see abusers choosing pot over family, school, friends, and health every day” and to somehow link marijuana use to “unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, academic failures, and car crashes” does nothing to further the conversation. From these people’s own mouths they have said dispensaries are inevitable, but, for some reason, they can’t be bothered to A) just do their jobs without personal bias or B) actually back up ANYTHING they’ve claimed with real facts.

    Our pathetically uneducated law enforcement officials have finally said enough to make this personal to me. I’ve been keeping everything professional and emotionally detached because, to me, facts are what’s important, not my personal anecdotal experiences. However, in this op-ed, they’ve gone too far. There are over 12,000 patients ALONE in Linn county and four surrounding counties. For the people entrusted with the service and protection of those people, to have such a hatred for them as to label them as liars, transients, drug-addicts, alcoholics, deadbeats, and any other moniker you’d like to encompass their descriptions of us, the patients.

    In closing, this is what your police officials in Linn county and surrounding areas think of OMMP patients:

    – Liars (“no chronic pain”)

    – Alcoholic (“history of alcohol abuse”)

    – Drug Addict (“history of drug abuse”)

    – Pothead (“just want to get high”)

    – Mentally Ill (“use in adolescence causes mental illness”)

    – Deadbeats (“choose pot over family, school, friends, health”)

    – Morally Misdirected (“poor choices… unplanned pregnancy”)

    – Irresponsible (“.. sexually transmitted diseases, car crashes”)

    – Transients (“…first communities that embrace marijuana dispensaries will experience a huge growth in population without ties to a job, family, and schools which ultimately place a larger burden on City services.” – Jeff Heinrichs, Albany police captain)

    Time for some new leadership who do their jobs based on actual facts instead of letting personal bias dictate policy decisions. The bottom line is this: Is Albany prepared to fight this out in court, spending thousands of tax payers dollars, because Capt. Heinrichs and Chief Lattanzio, with nary an actual study to fall back on, say dispensaries in Albany will cause the devil to rise up and make our town his new base of operations?

    Give me a break. It’s time for the “professionals” to start acting professional. First step, I would suggest, is to ACTUALLY LEARN THE LAWS WE ARE PAYING THEM TO UPHOLD. It’s disgusting how limited their understanding of state laws are and how they have no inclination to actually understand them, instead relying on knee-jerk mud-slinging that is LITERALLY opposite to factual data.

    Speak out Albany. Speak out Oregon. It’s time we stop “officials” from “leading” from ignorance.

    – Greg

  6. I don’t understand why there is no way to tax the business, our New Mexico dispensaries charge sales tax, so is it just a matter of… what?

  7. Sounds like a great place, so I’m counting on you to turn it into a progressive stronghold. Is there such a thing as a progressive Republican? If not, maybe you should make some.

  8. There are many of us here in Albany that support OMMP. Get the word out and the petitions or however you want to get this done. Truth is, Albany can become the model of how towns can have great, legal dispensaries. But, don’t wait too long as a few can spoil it for many. I’m about to turn 60 and the ‘upper’ age groups really can be quite supportive on this issue. We’re getting older and need medicine that truly works without killing us. I’ll call the Mayor and talk to her. She’s been pretty receptive in the past on other issues and I’ll bet she will listen and be open on this. She should be, she’s our Mayor and should represent the good people of Albany, like us!

  9. The mill closed down several years ago. I’ve been an Albany resident for 2 years and have never noticed a smell, but before I joined the military, on trips to visit Grandma in Coos Bay, I hear ya. That smell was unmistakable and unbearable.

    Albany is actually an amazing town. The amenities (mostly) of Portland without the traffic or people. Yes, there is a certain conservative element to the politics, but we’re finding, especially with this subject, it’s mostly just borne of ignorance and once you educate people, they are far more amicable to different views. Albany is, after all, a city with a small town community. I know it’s cliche’ but it’s true. :)

  10. JD, would you be interested in signing a petition we have circulated stating that Linn and Benton county residents do not oppose dispensaries in and of themselves? This is one way we are trying to demonstrate to city council and others that the people of these counties understand the need for a safe, legal place for patients to get their medicine.

    – Greg

  11. Because Albany has no business licenses for this kind of business, there is, effectively, no current way for the city to tax this business. As Mr. Delapoer (city attorney) mentioned in his briefing to the city council on 06Nov13, organizations like ours (Albany Alternative Health Solutions – a legal dispensary) welcome the opportunity to pay taxes to the city. We WANT to give back to our communities. We just want the chance and to be taken seriously as legal business owners.

  12. Yes, I’d like to know who Johnny is talking about too. The only people I know of who have spoken to city council are my brother and I, and the organization we run is 100% legal. I’ve never even seen meth in my life, so I’m curious to know who is “Albany’s favorite slinger”. We email our council representative almost daily, and so far it’s been as frustrating as it has been encouraging. EDIT: As a side note, when we presented to the council, none of them seemed to even know if dispensaries were currently operating in Albany or not.

    To the main article, as it stands now in Albany, per our 06Nov13 city council meeting where AAHS (Albany Alternative Health Solutions) presented information to the council on how dispensaries could be ran legally and with patients safety and concerns in mind, the council decided to take no action whatsoever. They are choosing to wait to see how things in Medford and around the state play out. In the meantime, organizations should comply with state regulations as they should already be doing (from Floyd Collins and Marc Hare).

    While I agree with Johnny that this may not be the best course of action in terms of stamping out black market dealers, it at least doesn’t place an undue strain on those of us wishing to operate legally. We feel in time, legal, patient centered dispensaries will replace black market dealers as most responsible patients would prefer to deal with a professional business with legislative oversight than some guy on Craigslist.

    Albany Alternative Health Solutions has taken a step into the forefront because we believe patients trump profit and we intend to fight tooth and nail to protect the patients we serve (ourselves included). There should be an article this week in the Albany-Democrat Herald explaining who we are in more detail.

    Further, to the point about the APD, we’ve asked the police to inspect our operation on several occasions. A couple of times they’ve agreed, verified our compliance, shook our hands, and bid us a nice day. We have an open invitation to police and city officials to see firsthand how a dispensary could operate safely and legally.

    My name is Greg Bechtel. I’m a disabled veteran and CFO of Albany Alternative Health Solutions. We started this project a year ago because of the number of vets we knew who smoked marijuana but didn’t have a card because there was no point. They had to get their medicine from the black market, so why bother with the expense and process to get a card when it wouldn’t change the risks faced with acquiring their meds. We have a better way and we wish the police department would just talk to us and chart a middle ground where their concerns are addressed.

    Anyway, thanks for the article about Albany. Good to see others are watching.

    – Greg Bechtel

  13. Okay, I’ve tried looking up what you are talking about, but only found the story about the Human Collective. Perhaps someone can point me to a current, follow-up story? Because I don’t understand what happened.

  14. Actually I don’t smoke weed but unfortunately I’m a realist this town is ridiculously conservative. As much as I’d like to I have a job and school no time to lobby these people you gotta pick your battles.

  15. Albany has a great example of a black market drug dealer working from a storefront. That location has done an excellent job of souring Albany’s city counsel on dispensaries. They’re providing the specific examples the city is using to justify banning everything for everyone. Thanks!

    They’ve also created a very visible drug trafficking network for APD to explore, so they can repeat Human Collective and start Albany’s own Street front Dealer down the same path as SONORML and their crew in Lane and Polk county. How many growers will go down when Albany’s favorite slinger rolls over to save their skin and mama’s nest egg?

    There may be a discussion around dispensaries, but when your city’s example is a straight up drug dealer, slinging whatever you want, their patient veil is way too thin. Unfortunately the city isn’t blind, and they see through it.

    So why don’t they bust them? It’s a question for ALL of the 370+ illegal drug dealers working from Oregon store fronts. These places don’t provide options in lieu of the black market, they are the black market. Can anyone name the dispensary bust that didn’t include other illegal drugs, guns or money counters? How about the ones that had all three?

    Make your money little momma, but remember your attorney is a dump truck, so squirrel it away for a rainy day.

    Squawk your distain for the blue boys chasing their H deal going down in a “Safe Access Point”. Repost the patient atrocities when the meth dealer is caught with weed in their dispensary.

    When you sell them both you’re not a medical marijuana advocate, you’re a drug dealer who happens to have marijuana too.

  16. Used to drive through an industrial area to get to Galveston beach in Texas. Once you smell that smell, it takes FOREVER to get it out of your nose. Nasty.

  17. Yes, the old mill there absolutely STINKS ! Who KNOWS what toxins are in that smoke ? Ever notice how they seem to TRIPLE the smoke output at night ? The old locals say “That’s the smell of MONEY ! (jobs)”… Well, peeee-yuuuu !

  18. stellarvoyager on

    Anyone who has driven past “Smellbany” on I-5 would know what I’m talking about. :)

  19. My hometown of Weed, CA (high on the slopes of Mt Shasta) banned dispensaries a couple years ago and now wants to tighten the noose. I’m NOT gonna sit idly by and let that happen. Some like minded citizens and I attended and testified at the last planning commission meeting when they were going to rubber stamp a zoning change to keep out dispensaries… We stopped them. I plan on organizing students at the local College of the Siskiyous to register and run for council. These small towns only need a couple hundred votes to sway an election. The town of WEED, CALIFORNIA should be a showcase and centerpiece of cannabis legality… Get off your stoned butts people… We can DO this !

  20. Jd Munoz… Are you registered to vote ? Are your friends ? I’m sure your city council is filled with OLD and CONSERVATIVE rednecks and tea partiers who grew up believing the movie “Reefer Madness” was a scientific documentary. Attend council meetings ! Find out who’s against medical marijuana and VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE !!! It takes some work and organization, so get your STONED ASS up off the couch and make some changes happen in Albany (you have more supporters there than you realize !).

  21. awww how can a city collect business taxes from these places an turn around an ban them can you say wake up stupid

  22. I thought maybe I was dumb, not “getting” your post. Then I came back and re-read it and it hit me… and I wanted to thank you for the chuckle.

  23. The feds dish it out to the states, who dish it out to the cities, then the counties, then, I dunno, municipalities? Hierarchy, it blows.

  24. Worst provision in these bills and initiatives is allowing cities, even large ones, the ability to completely ban dispensaries and collectives.

  25. Sounds like Oregon is being infected by what has happened in Colorado. And here I was just talking to a couple people who used to live in Oregon (and of course want to go back).

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