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  • Gold Hill marijuana dispensary prepares to open

  • GOLD HILL — Jackson County's first approved medical marijuana dispensary is set to begin providing marijuana to patients on Monday. But getting that approval was a rocky road right to the end.
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  • GOLD HILL — Jackson County's first approved medical marijuana dispensary is set to begin providing marijuana to patients on Monday. But getting that approval was a rocky road right to the end.
    Despite a wave of opposition from city residents who spoke in the public meeting, the Gold Hill City Council on Monday approved a pair of new ordinances defining how the dispensary will operate.
    Breeze Botanicals owner Brie Malarkey, who opened last month without marijuana, applied for a business license modification Tuesday morning, immediately following the council decision, and said she planned to begin dispensing medical marijuana on Monday. She obtained a state license for the dispensary in early May.
    The ordinances defined business license rules for dispensaries and added dispensaries as a permitted use in the downtown. Both were passed on 4-2 votes that left council members on either side of the outcome explaining their positions.
    Councilor Lorraine Parks said that while public testimony given in council meetings was heavily opposed to allowing dispensaries, there was significant support in the community among people who did not want to come forward.
    "The problem with the citizen feedback is that it's one-sided because anyone who would come out in support of a medical marijuana dispensary would have to deal with the stigma attached," Parks said.
    "There was a lot of feedback for and a lot of feedback against. It wasn't as one-sided as it might of seemed."
    Parks said Malarkey had gone "above and beyond" to meet state guidelines, which she said made the decision to allow the dispensary "not a matter of why do it but why not."
    Council members Margaret Dials, Doug Reischman and Gus Wolf joined Parks in voting in favor of both ordinances while Chris Stanley and Donna Silva opposed them.
    Following the second vote, one man in the audience, who declined to identify himself after the meeting, said, "There's the ones to recall!"
    Malarkey thanked the council for its support while several audience members shook their heads as they stood to leave while the meeting continued.
    Following the decision, during which public testimony was not permitted, former council member Christine Alford chastised the council for ignoring community feedback and disregarding city zoning laws that require a 500-foot buffer between adult-oriented businesses and schools, parks and churches.
    "You said no to children," Alford said. "You said no to parks. You said no to churches and to daycares. You said no to all the special interests. You said no to libraries. ...
    "These people came up here and said, 'Use caution. Do what other people are doing and slow down.' But it was never about the community. It was about giving one license to one particular person at one particular site. So you plopped it down within two churches and two parks."
    Councilor Donna Silva, who said she supports patient access to marijuana, said her two "no" votes on Monday were the hardest she had cast in two decades at City Hall.
    "Personally, I was for it," Silva said, "because I think everybody deserves safe access to medication. But, at the public hearing, I heard people say 'no,' and my job as a councilor at those public hearings is to listen to who testifies in front of me and vote based on what the citizens want. It's not based on what I want or believe."
    Councilor Doug Reischman said, despite citizen opposition, he favored the decision because he felt the council was following state law.
    "I think the reason for the way we voted," he said, "was that is what our state legislators wanted us to do."
    Monday's decision came with a clause calling for a 5 percent sales tax on all marijuana-related sales at Malarkey's shop. Malarkey said she would honor the council's decision but raised questions about the legality of the fee.
    Malarkey said Tuesday the verbal opposition at council meetings did not represent all community opinion.
    "There was a lot of support in the community and you just don't necessarily see them," Malarkey said Tuesday.
    "There were people going around town passing out fliers and, if you refused to take their flier or support them, they would get pretty angry. The council actually listened to the whole community, they looked at the laws at the state level and I think made a great decision for the community."
    Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yaho.com
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