The city of Klamath Falls Oregon is a fairly conservative town, in a very conservative county. As in other rural areas of Oregon–especially east of the Cascade Mountains–support for marijuana is nothing like that of the larger cities. In 2014 the citizens of the Klamath County voted against Oregon’s Measure 91, which legalized cannabis in the beaver state, with 56.1% voting no. The city council in Klamath Falls also chose to institute a ban on recreational marijuana licenses voting 4-1 for it, even though they had the option to send a referendum to the ballot and let the voters decide.
In 2016 an initiative was placed on the ballot for the entire County. Cannabis consumers, patients, farmers, and medical dispensaries came together and put forth measure 18-105. That measure failed by a substantial margin county-wide. After its failure, growers who wanted to cultivate for the recreational market had to shut down and move to friendlier regions.
That was probably the wrong approach, according to Ed Medina who owns the Klamath Falls medical marijuana dispensary A Better Way Medicinal Alternatives. Though allowing grows in the more rural parts of the county would have been ideal, and provided a wider base of industry in the area, Medina thinks it makes more sense to just try and get recreational marijuana approved in the city. The co-petitioner is Marianne Yong of Wholly Hemp Farm.
“The medical program is being slowly dismantled,” Explained Medina to Oregon Cannabis Connection. “And when we look at the numbers from the county wide measure two years ago, had it been a city measure it would have actually passed. It received 51% in favor. We are fairly confident that if we get the signatures and get it on the ballot, it’s going to pass.”
The city currently allows only medical marijuana businesses, including dispensaries, grows and processors, but their regulatory framework makes it practically impossible to get licensed because of the over burdensome restrictions.
“You can’t be licensed to do any sort of recreational [marijuana] businesses at all, and with the ordinance so strict you really can’t put in a medical processing facility even though they are technically allowed here.”
According to Medina, it’s because the zoning and land use regulation that the city created limit the available locations so severely that a business would have to build their own building on vacant land. So, even if Medina could afford to get a medical processor license and equipment, he would still have the added real estate and construction costs.
Access to extracts and concentrates remains a serious problem for the handful of medical dispensaries left in the state. Their are simply not enough processors and suppliers of quality cannabis products to allow him to offer his medical marijuana customers substantial choices. It’s not a smart business model, either, with so few medical retail outlets.
“There’s only four medical dispensaries [effectively operating] in the whole state, so you would have four potential customers that will purchase your products,” Medina said. “It really doesn’t make financial sense for anybody to do that.”
There are only a couple of medical marijuana processors currently operating in the state, all the rest have switched to recreational licenses. Of those two or three, one only makes “shatter” and no other extract products. There are simply no suppliers.
“Right now I’m renewing our license through the OHA and it costs me $4,000.00 to get a license when we don’t even know if we are going to be able to get products,” Medina explained. “The only thing we will have on our shelves soon, once we run out of what we purchased already, is raw flower and shatter.”
The shortages made Medina send a request to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the agency in charge of the recreational marijuana licensing and enforcement. In it he asked that he might obtain a recreational marijuana license just to be able to access the suppliers of products, not to sell to the public. Although it would be almost $5,000 for the license, and subject to OLCC rules and inspections, the access to the recreational products would make it easily worth the cost and trouble. In his email letter, he wrote, in part (see entire email at the end of this article):
“I am writing to you today as 1 of 4 medical only marijuana dispensaries left in the entire state of Oregon. We are currently in the process of our license renewal under the OHA, but I am not sure it is the best use of my time or money. With only 4 functioning dispensaries, and 3 functioning medical processors, what is the point of renewing our license?
“…What truly amazes me is that the answer is very simple, and would appease everyone involved. I will now lay out the simple changes that would solve this problem immediately, and save the state a lot of time and money;
1. Allow for a “medical only” OLCC license that allows access to all vendors, medical licensees, AND OLCC rec licensed vendors. We will all be reporting into the same system, METRC very soon. We can all track product from seed to sale in the same manner.
2. Keep the requirement for medical only licenses to only sell to OMMP cardholders to keep in line with the opt out rules. With access to rec processor products, we can provide the needed options for our patients.
3. Eliminate the licensing under the OHA, saving time, money, and resources that agency could use elsewhere.
4. Keep the patient, and caregiver cards under the OHA. They are a health organization. They have been doing that job since 1998.
5. Put all 3 medical processors, and all 4 medical dispensaries, under the same OLCC licensing and inspection requirements. This way, we all follow the same rules, simplifying the inspection process for the OLCC. We are nearly under the same requirements now, only inspected by a different agency. Seems very unnecessary.”
Their response was predictable. They told Medina that it would require a legislative fix and is out of the scope of OLCC enforcement parameters.
So, the ballot measure he drafted remains the only somewhat immediate option for relief from their problem, though it will not be until the coming 2018 November general election. If it passes, it will allow Medina to become a recreational dispensary and access the products he so desperately needs, as well as allow licensing of other recreational businesses like processors and growers.
Their signature drive has collected over 1,000 signatures so far, even though they are being discriminated against by county officials. They recently wanted to set up a booth at the Klamath county home show at the fairgrounds, but were denied access. Instead they were relegated to an area outside the fair property near an entrance. However Kelly Minty Morris, one of the anti-marijuana county commissioners, was allowed a campaign booth inside the home show!
“We were at the home show. We went to the cage fights, where we were allowed a table, and on St. Patrick’s Day we went down to main street and set up a table,” Explained Medina on their gathering efforts. “It got really cold at night just sitting outside at a table, but you gotta do what you gotta do.”
If the measure does not pass, it’s likely Medina will have to close his dispensary because he will not have large enough variety of products to sell. When harvest comes in Oregon, dispensaries need products other than flower to sell since it’s in abundance everywhere. Its the extracts, oils and edibles that carry them through the winter, and without suppliers they wont have products to sell.
With a population of about 21,500, Klamath Falls requires 1,784 valid signatures from registered voters. They are confident they will get the needed amount before the mid July deadline. With the cold weather in the area in winter and spring, they should be able to collect a lot more when it warms up. They want to collect over 3,500 to make sure they get enough valid signatures. To sign, you must be a registered voter in the City of Klamath Falls who has voted or at least updated your registration in the last five years.
To find out more about the initiative or volunteer to help, visit their website www.klamathstrong.com.
© 2018 Oregon Cannabis Connection. all rights reserved.
Full Email sent by Ed Medina to the OLCC regarding licensing and product access:
Edward Medina Jr.