Pubdate: Sat, 22 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


Several patients have filed complaints with the Oregon Medical 
Marijuana Program in an attempt to thwart the city of Phoenix's 
efforts to ban dispensaries and limit grow sites.

"It is illegal for them to pass it," said Andrea Adams, who operates 
The Greenery, a nonprofit medical marijuana education center. "They 
don't have the right to control OMMP patients in the city."

The Phoenix City Council appears poised to approve a four-month 
moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, which will operate with 
less legal ambiguity in the state after March 3.

The city also is contemplating an ordinance that could create very 
restrictive limits on where medical marijuana could be grown.

Adams said she believes it would be illegal for the city to pass any 
rules that would step on the rights of OMMP patients in the city.

Karynn Fish, spokeswoman for the Oregon Health Authority, said the 
issues over dispensary placement or grow sites relate to local control.

"It is our understanding that there is nothing in the OMMP law that 
overrides the ability of local jurisdictions to regulate grow sites," 
Fish said.

Jeff Dahl, Phoenix city manager, said the city has received two 
complaints about marijuana grow sites, which prompted discussion 
about a nuisance ordinance.

Dahl said the city is left to deal with health and safety issues 
regarding medical marijuana that haven't been adequately addressed by 
the state.

"We're just figuring it out," he said. "The state has given us very 
little guidance."

Dahl said the marijuana grow sites have created a nuisance for 
neighbors who have had to contend with the smell, garden chemicals 
and, in some cases, rodents.

A proposed ordinance would restrict cultivation of any amount of 
marijuana within 1,000 feet of schools, school bus stops, school 
evacuation sites, churches, parks, child care centers or 
youth-oriented facilities.

On a separate issue, the city has been fining The Greenery $100 a day 
for operating without a business license. The city denied The 
Greenery a license because marijuana violates federal law.

Phoenix is wrestling with the issue of medical marijuana as the state 
gets ready to roll out a dispensary law -- House Bill 3460, which 
defines how dispensaries can operate.

Cities such as Medford have attempted to ban dispensaries in advance 
of the law by citing more restrictive federal law. However, Rep. 
Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and other legislators have spoken out 
against these bans because they believe state law preempts local laws.

Ultimately, the question of whether a city can ban dispensaries could 
be decided in the courts unless the Legislature clarifies whether 
state law can preempt local laws regarding dispensaries.

The complaint letters from patients say the city would violate the 
Oregon Medical Marijuana Act by seeking its own registry of patients, 
caregivers, plants and grow sites.

Medical marijuana patients worry the city couldn't guarantee that the 
information it collected would be kept confidential because of Oregon 
public records laws.

The patients also are concerned the city will charge a fee to 
register a grow site with the city and that the city will effectively 
ban outdoor cultivation.

Phoenix Mayor Jeff Bellah said the ordinance regarding marijuana grow 
sites has been tabled to find out whether the Legislature can provide 
more clarity about medical marijuana laws.

"It's pretty lousy that the state has put these cities in that 
position," he said.

Melanie Barniskis, office manager at The Greenery, said she contacted 
the ACLU on Dec. 16, 2013, over her concerns about what she describes 
as Phoenix's attempt to preempt state law.

Despite her disapproval of Phoenix's actions, Barniskis said she 
doesn't think sending letters to the OMMP will help.

"I know full well the OMMP has zero regulatory interest in this," she 
said. "They have no regulatory or enforcement arm."

She thinks it might be more appropriate to send complaints to the 
Oregon Health Authority instead.

Barniskis, a Phoenix resident, does believe that some of the actions 
proposed by her city would violate the federal Health Insurance 
Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA).

She said that what the city has proposed would essentially keep a 
register of medical marijuana grow sites and patients.

"We are talking about issues of civil rights," Barniskis said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom