Medford’s effort to ban medical marijuana dispensaries has thrown another complication into an ongoing effort to write rules for a new pot law that goes into effect next year.
A 12-member, rule-making committee for House Bill 3460 already had been wrestling with whether a business license should be required for a dispensary.
“Not every area of the state requires a business license,” said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who is on the committee and helped sponsor HB 3460.
The city of Medford strengthened a local ordinance requiring businesses to follow state, local and federal laws before it can be issued a license. Once HB 3460 takes effect in March 2014, the city plans to rely on federal law to revoke or deny business licenses for dispensaries.
In one version of a draft for HB 3460, “proof of a business license issued by the local governing agency” was among requirements for a state dispensary license.
But the current recommendation, which hasn’t been set in stone, is to strike out the line, because some counties and cities don’t require business licenses.
Buckley said the suggested change came up prior to being aware of Medford’s decision to deny business licenses to dispensaries.
Buckley said he has received advice from the Legislature’s legal team that state law will override any local ordinances that attempt an outright ban. He said the Oregon Health Authority has the ultimate say in deciding where the dispensaries are located.
He said he will be receiving an official written opinion from the legislative counsel on the issue.
Buckley urged Medford officials to wait until the rules are written before acting.
“If the city decides to go to court once the rules are established and facilities are approved, they have every right to do so,” he said in an email. “But again, it would be prudent, I think, to wait to see what they are actually trying to ban, before they try to ban it.”
Medford Councilor Chris Corcoran said he took an oath of office to uphold the law and to uphold the Constitution. Currently, he said, marijuana is a violation of federal law.
“If state law trumps city law, then federal law trumps state law,” Corcoran said.
Though marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law, states with medical or recreational-use marijuana laws won’t be prosecuted by the U.S. government, as long as there’s no money laundering, sales to minors or growing on public lands, the U.S. attorney general has said.
Corcoran said he doesn’t have a problem with people who use marijuana for legitimate medical reasons, but he thinks many people have taken advantage of state laws.
“Do I think it’s one of society’s ills? I think it’s a contributing factor,” he said.