Pubdate: Sun, 02 Feb 2014
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2014 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: Damian Mann, Mail Tribune


The race is on to see who can be the first to open a medical marijuana
dispensary after House Bill 3460 takes effect March 3.

Brent Thompson, who leases commercial spaces in Ashland, has been
contacted by eight parties who want to open a dispensary on one of his

Generally a supporter of marijuana legalization, Thompson said he
didn't think his locations were appropriate and is unsure about the
new law, which will make it easier for growers to provide medical
marijuana to patients.

Thompson said some of the people called him multiple times to see
whether he'd had a change of heart.

"This is overwhelming," Thompson said. "There are too many unknowns,
so I decided to take a pass."

Ashland has changed its business license ordinance to pave the way for
dispensaries, while cities such as Medford have attempted to ban them.

Other states in the country have gone through growing pains as
marijuana becomes more mainstream. Both Colorado and Washington
legalized marijuana last year.

Mike Welch, owner of Puff's Smoke Shop in Ashland, wanted to be one of
the first to offer medical marijuana to patients, so he opened a
dispensary in his shop at the end of last year.

He said the state probably will limit the number of licensed marijuana
dispensaries the way it has limited the number of licensed liquor stores.

Welch, who said he doesn't smoke pot himself, said he views his
decision to offer medical marijuana to patients as a strategic
business move.

"I wanted something professional that was clean and well lit," he
said. "I don't want people to feel like they are doing something shady."

He has a business license for the portion of the store that sells
pipes and paraphernalia, but the city rejected his business license
application for a marijuana dispensary, which is in a separate room.

However, since Ashland changed its ordinance recently, Welch plans to
seek a business license after March 3.

He said that even though Ashland has opened its doors to marijuana
dispensaries, House Bill 3460 has limitations on where the
dispensaries can be located.

There are an estimated 200 unregulated medical marijuana retail
outlets in Oregon now.

Under existing state law, Oregon's 55,000 medical marijuana
cardholders can grow pot themselves or find a person to grow it for

House Bill 3460 gives cardholders another option: purchasing their
medicine from state-regulated medical marijuana retail outlets.

The bill prohibits any medical marijuana outlets from operating near
schools, but permits them to operate in agricultural, industrial or
commercial areas. And they would be required to test all batches of
marijuana for pesticides, molds and mildews.

Even though he's not a pot smoker, Welch said he does see the
medicinal benefits of marijuana, but also believes it could be

He said he personally welcomes the day when pot is legal, but more
importantly, he said, he hopes the country gets behind hemp
production, which only recently is starting to become legal in the
United States - including Oregon.

Welch said the state-regulated shops should provide a professional
framework for medical marijuana distribution.

"The '60s were fine, but we're well past that," Welch said. "We don't
need Cheech and Chong head shops."


Facts about medical marijuana

Number of Oregon Medical Marijuana Program patients:

- - Most common ailment: Severe pain, cited by 59,670 patients.
Persistent muscle spasms was the second most common at 15,888 (some
patients are afflicted with multiple health problems).

- - Number of caregivers: 30,638

- - Number of physicians with medical marijuana patients:

Top three counties in the state for OMMP cardholders:

Multnomah: 10,377

Jackson: 7,058

Lane: 6,405

- - Source: Oregon Health Authority

[photo caption]

Fuscia Train Wreck, a hybrid strain of marijuana, is sold at Puff's
Smoke Shop in Ashland. Owner Mike Welch hopes the shop will among the
first licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon when the law
becomes effective.

Julia Moore
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D