Medford City Council Drops Ban, Opt For Referral To Residents

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Crowd_Fills_Medford's_Chamber
Crowd Fills Medford’s Chamber

By Keith Mansur

Oregon Cannabis Connection

November 20, 2015

Medford’s City council, during their afternoon session yesterday, voted to postpone the councils discussion and second reading of their controversial ban on all residential marijuana cultivation in the city. The motion, made by councilman Kevin Stein, was seconded by Councilman Clay Bearnson, and passed with a 6-2 vote. Even Councilman Tim Jackle, who supported the ban strongly, voted to continue the conversation in the evening session.

The extension came because a standing room only crowd filled the chamber during the 12:00 pm session on November 19th, which was to include the second reading and likely vote on the onerous measure. With a large turnout of opponents of the measure, many people who were interested in speaking were not allowed due to the 30 minute time limit Mayor Gary Wheeler placed on the comment period, which they handily blew past anyway, taking comments and asking questions of some speakers, for a full 50 minutes.

Mayor Gary Wheeler
Image: Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler, from OCC Newspaper

Of the dozen or so speakers who did talk, not one expressed support for the ordinance, which was brought forth a few weeks ago after the city voted to allow medical dispensaries to operate in city limits, but not recreational ones.

After heated exchanges between Mayor Wheeler and the crowd over decorum, the speakers proceeded to explain why the ban is a dumb idea, and likely illegal. Speakers included attorneys, business people, growers, patients, and activists.

Attorney Robert Graham, who has fought Medford in court over their stance on marijuana dispensaries, explained to the council, “you are demonizing this issue by creating fear in the community….lets talk about the issues, lets not demonize the patient.”

Councilman Daniel Bunn objected to Graham’s characterization, and complained that the media took his comments out of context. He had been quoted in the local newspaper about how some residents are scared. The decorum the Mayor wanted to see began getting shaky at that point.

Attorney Robert Graham
Image: Attorney Robert Graham, by OCC Newspaper

“That was an extremely truncated quote,” said Councilman Bunn. “Everyone knows that’s a ridiculous thing to say…’that you should be afraid of people that use marijuana.”

The crowd explained, almost in unison, “That’s the problem!”

Soon after that, Councilman Chris Corcoran broke into the discussion and asked if they could have a “private session”, and possibly remove everyone from the chamber. That, of course, make the crowd even more agitated!

After Mayor Wheeler got the situation under control, the comments continued. Speakers were passionate, articulate, and raised many good points. Many told the council how the law would impact them personally, and others explained that the people of Oregon had deemed it legal, so they were stepping out of bounds with their ban.

Brent Kenyon, owner of Southern Oregon Alternative Medicine, Grateful Meds, and a member of the OLCC Rules Advisory Committee for marijuana, spoke eloquently and tried to let the councilors know that many patients need to grow their medicine, and that a ban is not an option for them. He also mentioned the 12 plant limit in residential now mandated at the state level, and also debunked the supposed “odor problem” which resulted in Medford’s current smell ordinance.

Council President Daniel Bunn
Image: Council President Daniel Bunn, from OCC Newspaper

With dozens more wanting to comment, the council then motioned to extend the second reading and vote to the evening session. The evening comment period ran even longer, as everyone was finally allowed to speak.

Finally, the council began discussing the ordinance prior to their vote, and Councilman Michael Zorosinski almost immediately expressed his discomfort with the onerous law and said he would not support it. Councilmen Bearnson and Stine immediately concurred, and soon the tide had apparently changed.

With a suggestion to send the issue to a citizen referendum already floated from President Bunn, the council moved rather quickly to strike down the proposed ban, and then moved to begin drafting two referrals for the November 2016 ballot: One to ask residents if they want to ban indor growing, and one to ask if they want to ban outdoor grows.

The vote was 7-1 against the ordinance. A striking change from a couple of weeks ago. At that point, the Mayor threatened to Veto the councils surprisingly inclusive marijuana business licensing and zoning ordinance they had just passed in October, and he demanded the ban as a compromise. After the first reading, the council voted 6-2 in favor of the ban, and scheduled the second reading for the session yesterday.

Councilman Bearnson expressed his disappointment with the efforts of the council, explaining that to focus so much attention on marijuana while the methamphetamine problem continues to run rampant in the region is not the leadership that is needed. He said, “I am hopeful that once this issue is behind us, that if we as a council are willing to invoke home rule authority to combat drug crime problems that we will take a risk by combating methamphetamine use, which is the scourge of this valley.”

Councilmen Bearnson and Stein
Councilmen Bearnson and Stein

More importantly, he also expressed his appreciation to the large crowds that day.

“I thank every one of these people for coming down today, because this is how democracy works,” explained Bearnson. “It’s best when you show up and it’s even better when legislators listen to people…I’m pretty proud of you here, right now.”

The point was made by a council member that under a previous ordinance passed months ago which dealt with residential marijuana grows, residents are limited to only four plants. So, medical patients wanting to grow twelve plants as the State law allows will not be allowed.

The rank smell of a lawsuit still lingers in the air if that rule is not changed.

– See more at: http://www.occnewspaper.com/?q=Medford_Council_Drops_Ban#sthash.hoqBjytd.dpuf

Keith Mansur

Keith Mansur is the founder, publisher, and editor of Oregon Cannabis Connection newspaper. The print publication has been serving Oregon since 2010. He has been a Oregon medical marijuana patient, grower, and caregiver since 2006. Find him on Facebook or email him at occnewspaper420@gmail.com

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