ASHLAND — More than 150 medical marijuana cardholders are now getting their pot at a resource center that opened last month in town.
The Greenery, 1746 Ashland St., offers several types of marijuana to cardholders on a donation basis. While many people give nothing or $1, others have given up to $200 to the nonprofit, allowing it to stay in the black so far, said co-founder Andrea Adams.
"Our job is to help people connect with medicine," she said. "Before this, if you couldn't grow your own, you had to try to do exchanges using the Internet and you didn't always know if it was safe or legal."
The nonprofit has consulted with lawyers and believes it is operating legally under Oregon's 1998 Medical Marijuana Act, Adams said. Similar centers operate in Portland and elsewhere in the state, she said.
However, the nonprofit and medical marijuana centers in every state are technically in violation of federal law, which views marijuana as an illegal drug, not a medicine.
"Within the state Medical Marijuana Act, we are legal, but federally it is illegal," Adams said.
Ashland police have met with The Greenery founders and don't believe the nonprofit has violated any state laws at this time, said Deputy Chief Corey Falls.
"Based on our conversation, it sounded like there weren't any laws that I could see that they were going to violate," he said Friday. "We have nothing to investigate them for right now."
The Greenery receives its pot via donations from cardholding growers, so the entire operation involves an exchange of marijuana between cardholders, which is legal, Adams said.
"We use this as a meeting place to do medicine exchange," she said.
Under state law, cardholders can either grow their own pot, have someone grow it for them or receive it through a member-to-member exchange, as long as it is not being sold, Adams said.
So far the nonprofit hasn't had a problem keeping enough marijuana in stock, despite the fact that it doesn't reimburse growers for their donations, she said.
The nonprofit doesn't call itself a dispensary, because it's not a business and it doesn't sell marijuana, Adams said. Dispensaries are illegal in Oregon.
The four founders of The Greenery, Adams, Jeffrey Carey, Chelsea Hopkins and Joseph Hopkins, said they volunteer their time at the nonprofit and don't receive compensation.
"This is a labor of love," Adams said. "We're very passionate about allowing people safe access to their medicine."
They staff the resource center from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. In order to receive marijuana, people must go through a screening process to ensure they are medical marijuana cardholders and will abide by the nonprofit's rules. Once people pass the screening process, they automatically become members of The Greenery, a process that is free.
The Greenery, which operates in the Adhara Wellness Center building, does not allow members to use marijuana on its premises, in their vehicles or in the neighborhood. Per state law, cardholders can only use marijuana in a private place where they won't disturb others.
The nonprofit also doesn't allow members to resell or redistribute the pot they receive. At each visit, members must present a valid identification card and Oregon medical marijuana card before receiving pot.
Members range in age from their early 20s to early 80s and hold cards for a variety of reasons, including because they suffer from chronic pain, glaucoma and cancer, Adams said.
As of April 2011, there were 5,136 medical marijuana cardholders in Jackson County, more than in any other county in Oregon except Multnomah, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
In addition to marijuana buds, The Greenery offers marijuana-infused bath salts and massage oils, as well as hash and tinctures made from pot. It updates its Facebook page and website, www.ashlandgreenery.org, with its latest offerings.
The group inspects all of its marijuana for mold or other contaminants and is working toward having it tested to determine its potency and safety, Adams said.
The resource center also holds free or low-charge classes on aspects of medical marijuana. In June the nonprofit will have classes on growing basics, medication preparation, butter making and organic mite and mildew control.
The Greenery also provides legal updates and information to members about the state medical marijuana program.
For its first few months, the nonprofit is focusing on paying its bills and setting up a legal fund in case it faces challenges, Adams said. If The Greenery has extra money left over, it plans to donate to other local nonprofits and to set up a fund to help low-income people obtain medical marijuana cards.
"We're going to do this as long as we can and as long as we're helping members," Adams said.
Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-708-1158 or firstname.lastname@example.org