An Ashland restaurant plans to open on Friday and offer marijuana-laced Mongolian barbecue meals to Oregon medical marijuana cardholders, but Ashland police Chief Terry Holderness said he doubts the business can do so legally.
Earth Dragon Edibles Restaurant & Lounge at 1662 Siskiyou Blvd. will accept donations for meals that can be ordered with or without cannabis-infused grapeseed oil, said Michael Shea, co-owner and president of the new eatery.
The business will also offer goods such as marijuana cookies and marijuana-infused honey. State medical marijuana cardholders can smoke cannabis on-site in a lounge, Shea said.
"We focus on medicating the food," he said. "Some call them edibles, or 'medibles.' "
Cannabis cafes began opening in Oregon in 2009. Some have been targeted by law enforcement agencies, according to The Oregonian.
Shea said he and his business partner, restaurant co-owner and vice president Kevin Wallace, have consulted with attorney Paul Loney and they believe their business is legal.
Loney, who specializes in medical marijuana law, was out of his office and not immediately available for comment. He has offices in Ashland and Portland.
Holderness said he doubts the restaurant can operate legally.
"If they're running a business in violation of medical marijuana laws, we'll put together a case and submit it to the district attorney," Holderness said.
He acknowledged that state laws on medical marijuana are confusing. But he said a person needs to be a card-holding patient, a licensed grower or licensed caregiver to possess marijuana.
Holderness said people affiliated with the restaurant could be charged with furnishing marijuana. He said furnishing marijuana is still a crime, even if the person gives it away.
Marijuana cannot be purchased or sold under Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act.
Shea said people who come to the Earth Dragon Edibles Restaurant & Lounge will not be charged, but there are suggested donations for the different items, such as $8 for a regular bowl of Mongolian barbecue and $10 for a large.
Those prices are the same as when a regular Mongolian barbecue restaurant previously operated at the site, Shea said.
Suggested donations for marijuana cookies range around $4. Honey, pies and other goods are also available, Shea said.
Shea said while federal law does not allow the use of medical marijuana, he believes federal agents are unlikely to raid the restaurant.
Shea said he believes the restaurant complies with Oregon medical marijuana laws.
The restaurant will receive the marijuana it uses in dishes and in the smoke lounge via donation, he said.
"We believe we are following current Oregon laws," Shea said.
About 15 people will be working at the restaurant on an all-volunteer basis, said Shea.
He said he began using medical marijuana himself after suffering a neck injury.
Shea said people who smoke marijuana feel the effects within minutes, while people who eat food containing marijuana notice the effects in 40 minutes to one hour and 20 minutes.
He said most medical marijuana cardholders are experienced with giving themselves the right dose.
"We stress responsible medicating. It's like with alcohol. People should not exceed a dose they can handle. If someone is new to 'medibles,' we recommend they start with a smaller dose," Shea said.
People who have consumed too much can wait in the smoking lounge. Regular cigarettes are not allowed in the lounge, he said.
"We also provide taxis for people who have over-consumed and are intent on leaving," Shea said.
The restaurant will offer dine-in meals plus take-out, he said.
It will not serve alcohol because of the legal complexities involved in serving alcohol and marijuana, he said.
"We're trying to create an environment where people don't feel bad about their choice of cannabis as a medicine," Shea said. "It's a restaurant. It's not a back alley. It's a friendly environment for people who are cardholders."
Plans call for the restaurant to be open every day from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., he said.
As of April 1, Jackson County had 6,760 medical marijuana cardholders, the second highest in the state after Multnomah County, which had 9,480.
For answers to common questions about Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act, visit www.oregon.gov/OSP/DES/docs/med_mj_patient_info.pdf?ga=t.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.