Klamath Falls Cannabis Initiative Spearheaded by Local Dispensary

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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.”

 Ed Medina, Klamath Falls cannabis initiative, Klamath initiative
Ed Medina, the initiative petitioner, at his medical marijuana dispensary in Klamath Falls. Image: Ed Medina

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:

Hello-
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?
It seems to me that Oregon is wasting huge amounts of money with a program and department committed to only 7 businesses. The OHA dispensary and licensing division is no longer necessary. With the OLCC now overseeing and handling the reporting of both rec and medical, why do we need to be licensed under a program that essential no longer exists? With no processors, we have no products to sell. With no products to sell, we will soon be forced out of business. This is not the first time I have pointed out this problem, but it is still being ignored.
We will all soon be required to report to the OLCC, even as a medical only facility. But, we cannot buy products from anyone licensed as rec. This makes absolutely no sense. Our hands are being tied behind our back, yet expected to somehow continue to provide our services. We are in an opt-out city and county, Klamath Falls in Klamath County. We have hundreds of patients we still serve, since the nearest rec store is over 70 miles away, through snow covered mountain roads. Patients depend on us here. Without the option to purchase at legal stores, non-cardholders are being forced to buy from unlicensed sellers. the opt out has created an enormous black market in areas like Klamath, where there are no legal options to buy a legal product. This seems very counter-productive for a program supposedly committed to reducing illegal sales. You have created your own nightmare. At some point you wont be able to ignore it any longer. When we close, even patients here will be forced to purchase illegally. Does any of this make sense to you? Why would you continue with laws that have proven detrimental to the program, and to the demise of small businesses that have survived under the crushing weight of legislative changes at every turn.
For us, nothing has changed since 2014 when we opened. We still function a premier medical facility, under the same conditions we have always had, yet our rules become more crushing every legislative session. You all have forgotten that we exist. Under the Oregon constitution, article 1 section 20, it states;
 Equality of privileges and immunities of citizens. No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens..”
I’d say that by limiting my business, and all of us licensed under the OHA is a direct violation of this section. We are being held to entirely different terms that has, and will put us all out of business before long. I am willing to bet that all current licensees under the OHA, and all of those already put out of business by the unequal application of the law would join me in an effort to prove in the courts that our rights have been violated on many different levels.
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.
If we allow everyone to participate equally under the same rules, you will be providing a path to survival for us under medical, and maintaining control over an otherwise out of control system. The medical growers are the only relatively untracked segment of the industry. With the recent legislative changes, med growers are going to be held more accountable as well. That area still needs some work, but I am confident the newly formed cannabis commission can come up with reasonable solutions for that area. At least I hope so.
A majority of medical growers in opt out areas have already went back to the unlicensed markets. The harder you squeeze them, and the harder you make it to participate, the less control you will have. That is something you don’t seem to understand about marijuana producers. They aren’t going to stop or comply when you make it too expensive and too restrictive. That’s just reality.
I hope someone reads this email. I don’t plan to go away or let this matter go. I am in contact with other OHA licensees, and we are forming a legal case to defend our constitutional right to equal treatment. I hope it doesn’t come to that.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. This is at least the 10th contact I have made with all persons and agencies involved.

Edward Medina Jr.

Owner – A Better Way Medicinal Alternatives, LLC.

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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