The Linn County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday decided to continue a hearing concerning a possible one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries until 10 a.m. on April 16, after they learned that such a facility already exists on the outskirts of Lebanon.
Board chairman Roger Nyquist said he wanted time to confer with legal counsel before taking the issue to a vote. Commissioners John Lindsey and Will Tucker concurred.
Shawn Aman said he and his wife, Sarah Whiteley, have operated Going Green Compassion Center at 2999 South Santiam Highway for a year. They filed paperwork with the Oregon Health Authority and serve more than 1,050 customers, who are all Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card holders.
And that is what has created a “gray” area in the law. Aman said the state looks at the operation as a club because only people with medical marijuana cards are allowed access.
Aman said the couple has invested more than $60,000 in “equipment to test marijuana for pesticides, THC potency and mold issues.”
Marijuana is exchanged for reimbursement costs only, he said.
He said 67 percent of their clients are “retirement age or older” and about a third use a ramp instead of stairs due to some type of disability.
“The sheriff’s office has been to our place only once in the last year and that was because an employee accidentally hit a panic button,” Aman said. “If you vote for a moratorium, you will send more than 1,000 patients to the streets or drug houses to get their medicine.”
Aman added, “There is no boogeyman here. You need an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card to belong. It’s not a scary place.”
He invited the commissioners to visit the facility at any time, adding that it is compliant with House Bill 3460, which established medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon.
But Nyquist said it is against county code for the Planning Department to issue permits for any illegal business.
“Your property may not be properly zoned for this type of operation,” Nyquist warned.
As with the city of Albany, which is also considering a dispensary moratorium, several people told stories about how marijuana has improved their lives, including Aireale Bruce from Sweet Home, who said it has greatly reduced the number of epileptic seizures she experiences.
She credited medical marijuana with “giving me my life back … I’m feeling alive and awake.”
But Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny told the board it is a bad idea to allow dispensaries in the county.
“The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program is already rife with abuse. This would only invite more abuse,” Marteeny said.
Marteeny said that in 1998, the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet stated there would be an estimated 500 medical marijuana cardholders added per year, or about 8,000 total by now.
“But there are 60,000 card holders in Oregon,” Marteeny said. “The Oregonian recently noted that there about 10 physicians in the state who account for 60 percent of the medical marijuana cards and one physician in Portland, accounts for 25 percent.”
Marteeny said Linn County voters have twice rejected medical marijuana issues on ballots in 2004 and 2010, but the issue was pushed through statewide by the sheer number of Multnomah County voters.
“Marijuana is bad for our society,” Marteeny said. “Today’s marijuana is far more potent than the 1970s, when the THC level was about 2 percent. Now, it’s up to 25 percent.”
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