A lengthy appeals process for medical marijuana businesses has prompted the Medford City Council to explore ways to shorten the process and put more teeth into existing laws.

The council agreed Thursday to look at streamlining the appeals process for business licenses, taxi cards, nuisance abatement and sidewalk repairs. Councilors also want to look at imposing a fee to file appeals, but the fee could be reimbursed if the appeal is successful. A fee range of $25 to $150 was discussed.

"It would give people a little more skin in the game," said Deputy City Attorney Lori Cooper.

The council rejected the idea of using the county hearings officer to handle appeals rather than the council itself.

"I don't know if the council should give up its final say," Councilor Daniel Bunn said.

The council also looked at the option of declaring an emergency suspension of a business license to stop illegal activity.

The council expressed frustration about being unable to shut down a medical marijuana dispensary on East Main Street despite issuing citations. Councilors enacted a permanent moratorium against dispensaries last month, saying federal law trumps the state's dispensary law that became effective March 3.

"I noticed The Lounge was still open," Mayor Gary Wheeler said.

City staff has spent considerable time wading through legal arguments surrounding The Lounge and MaryJane's Attic and MaryJane's Basement, another Medford dispensary.

MaryJane's, which is also a clothing store, is still operational after Jackson County Circuit Judge Timothy Gerking allowed it to reopen as long as it didn't dispense marijuana.

The Lounge, which never had a business license, continues to operate in spite of receiving almost daily fines from the city of $150.

"They'd rather pay the daily fees and the fines," Councilor John Michaels said.

City Manager Eric Swanson said the marijuana dispensaries had a different goal in mind when they brought their appeals before City Council.

"It was just a process to get to the court," he said.

The council thought businesses should pay a higher fee of perhaps $100 to file an appeal, while those appealing a taxi card rejection could pay about $25.

Depending on the situation, the city currently allows for two appeals in some cases, but is looking at ways to provide only one appeal. In the past 10 years, there have been only two instances in which an appeal led to an overturned decision.

The council took a more sympathetic approach toward sidewalk repairs, which are the responsibility of the property owner.

Councilors said they might consider giving the Public Works Department more latitude in granting extensions to homeowners who don't have the money for repairs.

Councilor John Michaels said he would find it difficult to pay for sidewalk repairs in front of his own house.

Councilor Dick Gordon said the council needs to be responsive to its constituents, particularly those hit by a citation over a bad sidewalk who don't have the money to fix it quickly.

He said he didn't think the council should hand over its ability to decide local matters to a county hearings officer.

Gordon said he remembers one homeowner and his wife appealing to the council to give them some time to make the repairs.

"I don't think the hearing officer would think of the pregnant woman," Gordon said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.