Advocates for legalizing marijuana have opened a Cannabis Resource Center in downtown Medford.
Organizers of the Southern Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said the center will provide education, advocacy and support for medical marijuana patients and providers, information on marijuana legislation and a place for support groups to meet. But the center will not distribute marijuana, medical or otherwise, they said.
"We absolutely forbid the transfer of cannabis for consideration on the premises," said Christopher Pride, 36, executive director of Southern Oregon NORML.
Opened Monday in a former real estate office at 1109 N. Riverside Ave., the center is divided into two sections.
The first is open to the public and includes a meeting room and offices for a physician and registered nurse, the only paid staff at the center. The physician's position is currently available. The registered nurse coordinates groups, gives advice and assists with medical records for medical marijuana cardholders and others needing services.
The second section, behind a green door, is strictly for cardholders in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. This section includes a resource library with computers and Internet access, a cardholders' store and cardholders' lounge.
Those under 18 will not be allowed to enter unless they are approved and supervised under OMMP guidelines.
"Kids don't need to be around cannabis any more than they need to be exposed to alcohol," said Pride, a Southern Oregon University graduate in business, commercial diver and medical marijuana cardholder.
Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said many other jurisdictions have similar marijuana resource centers.
"As long as they're not committing a crime, we're not too concerned," Doney said.
The center and paid staff are supported by membership dues and donations from the community. Currently the center maintains 40 to 50 volunteers, Pride said.
Oregon has 20,971 medical marijuana cardholders. Jackson County is ranked third, with 1,965 cardholders, behind Multnomah and Lane counties, according to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Web site.
Pride said primary focuses for Southern Oregon NORML are marijuana legislation and establishing industry standards for cannabis farmers.
NORML seeks a clear set of guidelines for safety, quality and taxation of medical marijuana grow sites.
"We are losing billions of dollars in tax revenue as a country," Pride said. Medical marijuana providers are not taxed for their product like other produce farmers, he said, adding NORML would like to see cannabis farmers pay their fair share of taxes.
"We want to be treated like any other farm," said Pride.
The center is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 550-1656.
Dawn Hatchard is a freelance writer living in Gold Hill. Reach her at email@example.com.