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Regulating medical marijuana

Dude, it’s all good.

That was pretty much the attitude Brookings city councilors took at a work session Monday afternoon to discuss how the city might want to regulate medicinal marijuana dispensaries.

“From what I’ve seen, I don’t wish to prohibit or regulate any more than the state’s going to do,” said Council Member Jake Pieper. “I’m not a marijuana advocate, but it’s not the big, bad wolf some people think it is.”

Currently, there are no applications pending for a marijuana dispensary in town.

In general, the council agreed to leave regulations to the state, saying they feel the state will do an adequate job of crafting guidelines by which the city can abide.

“The state needs to come up with something, because the laws we have do not work,” said Curry County Sheriff John Bishop.

 “There are too many people taking advantage of the loopholes in the law. Under the guise of medical marijuana, people are growing and selling. They’re abusing the law. In turn, that hurts the people who really need it for medical reasons.”

Under legislation signed into state law in August, municipalities have the ability to prohibit or regulate medical marijuana dispensaries once state guidelines go into effect March 1, 2014. Some of those rules are already established, and include where dispensaries can be located, testing for mold and pesticides, enforcement, fees and who can own and operate them.

Council member Bill Hamilton, however, said he would feel more comfortable with the issue if cities, states and the federal government would all agree.

“I would like to see, instead of regulations, us all be on the same page,” he said. “That way, we don’t have the state saying, ‘We will allow this,’ and the feds stepping in and saying, ‘No, you can’t do that.’”

Council member Brent Hodges noted that many municipalities — Ashland, Eugene, Portland and some in Northern California — have legislation regarding medicinal marijuana and how it is cultivated, sold and consumed.

“I think it’s more difficult for the sheriffs that have to deal with it,” he said. “It’s kind of like the illegal alien issue. You can oversee it or brush it under the rug and pretend it’s not there. I see it more like the bar and tavern process. I don’t think any more regulations (than those issued) by the state is necessary.”

The federal government, however, still classifies the drug as “dangerous” and of no medicinal value.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime. The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act consistent with these determinations.”

Yet, even President Barack Obama recently wrote a policy outline that indicates some kinds of “marijuana activities” will not be prosecuted. And 20 states and the District of Columbia now permit the use of marijuana for medicinal use.

Untold thousands are incarcerated, too, for having been caught using, growing or selling the drug, which many believe is a victimless crime clogging up the courts.

Pieper indicated he holds no allegiance to federal marijuana guidelines.

“I don’t care what the federal government says,” he said. “We took an oath of office to the Brookings municipality and the state of Oregon.”

Some states are even pushing for legal recreational use of pot; many municipalities list it as a “minimal offense” when law enforcement catches someone with certain amounts.

The weed, which can be smoked or cooked in foods or infused in candies, helps with chronic pain that can come with cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and AIDS related illnesses and numerous other diseases and disorders, many physicians agree.

Bishop’s not so sure.

“Until they come up with credible medical advice that medical marijuana really helps, I still don’t see the reason for it,” he said. “I’ve heard it, but still to this day, I have not heard any credible medical opinions that it helps. I’m not saying it doesn’t; I just haven’t seen it.”

Hamilton also has a problem with anyone but the dispensary owner giving the patient the marijuana.

“They should take it to them — like a house call,” he said. “If someone gets to that caregiver and offers them $20,000 (for the marijuana) — I don’t even want that option out there. I think we need to take our sweet time with this subject.”

Jim Klahr, a Brookings citizen who sits on numerous committees that address marijuana and its uses, told the council that it’s only a matter of time legislation is expanded to include the recreational use of the drug, which many believe is less harmful than alcohol.

In 2010, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy reclassified marijuana from a Schedule I drug — a dangerous drug with no medicinal use — to a Schedule II drug, which recognizes its medical value.

“I think this is probably a good stance,” said Brookings Police Lt. Donny Dotson said of the council’s initial thoughts on regulations. “We’ll see how it unfolds. It’ll be interesting.” 

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