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Ashland examines putting medical marijuana shops on hold

 Posted: 4:30 PM March 21, 2014

With applications for six medical marijuana dispensaries pending and neighborhood opposition mounting, the Ashland City Council is considering placing a moratorium on such businesses.

The council will discuss a temporary moratorium at its Tuesday, April 1, meeting that begins at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

Ashland has one of the most lenient stances on dispensaries among Southern Oregon cities and counties.

The Oregon Health Authority Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program has received six dispensary applications for Ashland so far, City Administrator Dave Kanner said this week.

People hoping to launch dispensaries in Oregon began submitting applications to the state on March 3 as part of a new medical marijuana regulatory system.

The state keeps dispensary applicant information confidential, but data is available about two applicants because they applied for and received Ashland business licenses.

Siskiyou Medical Supply is already dispensing marijuana inside Puff's Smoke Shop, a long-established business at 1908 Ashland Street, between an Allstate insurance office and an H&R Block.

A proposed dispensary called Top Shelf Meds at 400 Williamson Way has yet to open, but neighbors are raising objections.

The dispensary is in a business zone that directly abuts a neighborhood.

"There's no buffer between our neighborhood and this medical marijuana dispensary," said Carol Kim, who lives with her family on a side street off Williamson Way.

The dispensary is separated from her home by a sparse hedge, and her daughter's bedroom looks out on the dispensary.

Kim said it's ironic that state rules bar dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools and each other, but her daughters will come home from school and have to live near a dispensary.

Kim said Ashland needs to consider additional regulations governing dispensaries, including lighting, hours of operations, screening from neighboring properties and whether they can site near neighborhoods even if they are technically in business zones.

State law does not allow dispensaries in residential zones, but they are allowed in mixed use, commercial, industrial and agricultural zones.

"I want to see guidelines for Ashland," Kim said. "It's not just about our neighborhood. This will be an issue elsewhere."

She said some people do need medical marijuana to treat their health conditions, but dispensaries should be located in business zones.

The city of Ashland is holding an informational meeting about dispensaries at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the Otte Peterson Room at The Grove building, 1195 E. Main St.

The purpose is to have an open conversation about neighborhood concerns regarding the dispensary on Williamson Way and what the city's options are for addressing concerns, Kanner said.

The meeting is open to the public.

— Vickie Aldous

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