No pot moratorium in Curry

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer March 28, 2014 07:57 pm

Curry County commissioners decided Wednesday not to impose a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, noting that delaying the opening of such facilities would not benefit anyone. 

Statewide, eight licenses have been granted out of 288 applicants since March 3. Twenty-two others have been granted provisional licenses. The remaining 20 were denied based on incomplete applications or their proposed locations being within 1,000 feet of a school.

Other applicants, including one proposed in Brookings, are still awaiting word from the state.

Yet, some counties and cities are taking advantage of a new law that allows them to place a moratorium on dispensary openings to allow them more time to enact regulations specific to their local needs. They have until May 1 to impose a moratorium and must lift it by May 1, 2015.

Last week, Port Orford held a first reading of a resolution putting in place a moratorium; Gold Beach and Brookings officials plan to abide by state guidelines.

“I’m not in favor of a moratorium, but what I’d like is some sort of standards, similar to liquor stores or bars,” said Commissioner David Brock Smith at a commissioner work session Wednesday. “I don’t want to do anything to inhibit folks getting the relief they need.”

Commissioner David Itzen initially said he favored placing a moratorium on dispensaries to allow the county enough time to craft regulations, but it was pointed out that local regulations — if they are to be enacted at all — are not subject to any deadline.

About 15 citizens opposed to a moratorium showed up to explain why one isn’t needed.

“We’re a unique community in that patients are locked into this corner of the state,” said Jim Klahr, a medical marijuana proponent. “A moratorium only does one thing: hurts patients. The best thing you can do is watch us and see what we’re doing and if it creates a problem. You can see what it’s doing for the county, whether it’s negative or positive. I don’t see any negatives in trying to help sick people.”

He noted that the national wariness around legalizing marijuana, even for medicinal use, has gotten law enforcement engaged in a medical issue; legalizing it, Klahr said, will reduce demand on the black market.

Smith said he was concerned about how some marijuana products are being sold in packaging almost identical to existing products, including cereals, candy bars and numerous other edible items.

“It’s the state’s job to do the testing, the packaging, see how the place is set up and operating,” said Commissioner Susan Brown. “It’s our job to see how it fits into our county and make it safe for our citizens and the facility.”

Marilyn Klahr, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1983, began a medical marijuana regimen and has been cancer-free for 31 years, said the existence of the facilities is more about safety.

“Our patients, our community, our friends need to have safe access, so they don’t have to go to the black market,” she said. “I think it’s cruel to deny us.”

Desmond Robinson, who hopes to open a medical marijuana facility, said state rules are numerous and strict, and proponents are more than willing to abide by them than risk having the state shut down the dispensaries altogether.

State regulations run the gamut, and address background checks, a store’s location from schools, extensive alarms and other security systems, marijuana testing, record keeping, merchandise transfers between a facility and patient, labeling, inspections and violations.

“We’re that close,” Robinson said, putting his thumb and forefinger ever so close together. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars. It’s not easy opening a new business. If you delay us, that’s more money out the door.”