Pubdate: Sat, 18 Jan 2014
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2014 The Mail Tribune
Author: Vickie Aldous


The city of Ashland is proposing a change to its business license
regulations to avoid conflicts between state and federal laws that are
at odds over the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Ashland City Council will consider the change during a meeting
that starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council
Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

While medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal under federal law,
the Oregon Legislature passed a bill in 2013 that makes such
dispensaries legal under state law if they comply with certain conditions.

Ashland's municipal code currently states that the city will not issue
a business license to any business engaged in an "unlawful activity,"
according to city staff memo to councilors.

"This proposed code amendment removes the 'unlawful activity'
provision from the business license code, thus relieving city staff of
the potentially awkward responsibility for possibly shutting down a
business that is explicitly legal and regulated under state law," the
memo said.

The code change would not protect medical marijuana dispensaries from
possible federal prosecution, the memo noted.

In 2012, the city received a business license application from a
medical marijuana dispensary that had opened on Hersey Street.

The city declined to issue a business license because of the "unlawful
activity" provision code. The dispensary then moved to another city
without that provision, according to city staff.

Also in 2012, the Earth Dragon Edibles Restaurant & Lounge was denied
a business license because it sold food prepared with cannabis-infused
oil to medical marijuana card-holders.

The city later issued a business license when the restaurant promised
to stop providing marijuana-infused food and instead asked patrons to
bring their own marijuana and discretely add it to their food.

Oregon law was unclear about whether the bring-your-own-marijuana
restaurant model was legal. Federal law barred the concept, but was
only partially enforced, city officials said at the time.

The business closed in less than a year from a lack of customers and
insufficient revenue, according to a founder.

While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the U.S. Department
of Justice has taken the position that it will not interfere with
marijuana businesses that comply with state laws -- as long as they
comply with certain criteria.

Those criteria include that a business's activities not result in the
distribution of marijuana to minors, serve as a cover for trafficking
other illegal drugs, or generate revenue for criminal enterprises,
according to city staff.

Oregon has its own requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries,
including that they:

* be located at least 1,000 feet from any public or private school or
another licensed dispensary;

* be located in an area zoned for commercial, industrial, mixed-use or
agricultural use;

* be registered as a business with the secretary of state's

* install a minimum security system, including a video surveillance
system, an alarm system and a safe.

City staff members said Ashland's business license system is meant to
generate revenue for the city and serve as a registry for who is
conducting business in town -- not to be a means to determine the
legality of various business ventures.

With the current code's "unlawful activity" provision, staff would
have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of all state and federal laws
in order to apply the code fairly, according to city staff.

For a complete list of Tuesday night meeting agenda items and for
details on each item, see
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