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Medford anti-dispensary ordinance won't stand, says state Rep. Peter Buckley

 Posted: 2:00 AM October 16, 2013

Oregon law will trump any local ordinances that attempt to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, Rep. Peter Buckley warned today.

"The city of Medford cannot regulate medical marijuana differently than the state," Buckley said.

Medford officials passed an ordinance on Sept. 5 that allows for the revocation or denial of a business license to anyone engaged in illegal activities based on federal, local or state laws. Marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law.

The ordinance was created as a response to Buckley-sponsored House Bill 3460, which will set up medical marijuana dispensaries around the state regulated by the Oregon Health Authority.

HB 3460 will not take effect until March 2014, after a rule-making committee establishes the legal framework for regulating pot dispensaries.

Buckley said it is not legal to operate a dispensary until HB 3460 takes effect.

On Tuesday, Buckley said he'd received many calls about the marijuana issue, noting he wished there was as much interest in education funding.

Because many of the questions revolved around whether a city could ban dispensaries, Buckley said he contacted the Legislative Counsel's office and received an opinion Tuesday that local ordinances cannot be used to block the implementation of state law.

"State law will trump local ordinances," he said.

Buckley said the law gives the state the authority to regulate dispensaries, and cities cannot preempt those rules.

Cities will have some discretion in determining times and manner of operations, he said.

Though marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law, states with medical or recreational-use marijuana laws won't be prosecuted by the U.S. government as long as there's no money laundering, sales to minors or growing on public lands, the U.S. attorney general has said.

Medford police Chief Tim George said he couldn't comment on questions about how Medford's ordinance on pot dispensaries might be trumped by state law.

"These are legal questions that are best referred to the city attorney," he said.

Calls made to the Medford city attorney's office were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The dispensaries can't be located within 1,000 feet of each other or a school.

A dispensary can be operated by anyone who doesn't have a felony record. The clinic cannot make a profit, though it can pay employees a wage and health insurance. The owner can also receive a salary.

Andrea Adams, a local medical cannabis advocate, said she expects resistance from cities in Oregon to the dispensary law.

She said there have been varying opinions about how much local cities can do to get around the law.

"It seems like a good option for communities here to open up a revenue stream and let dispensaries be a positive part of the community," she said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, dmann@mailtribune.com or @reporterdm.


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