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MailTribune.com
  • Gold Hill dispensary explains the rules

  • Residents from Southern Oregon have flocked to Gold Hill to check out the only medical marijuana store still standing in Jackson County after a backlash against similar enterprises in other cities.
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  • Residents from Southern Oregon have flocked to Gold Hill to check out the only medical marijuana store still standing in Jackson County after a backlash against similar enterprises in other cities.
    Polly Whitt, a 56-year-old cancer survivor from Gold Hill, went to the store Wednesday, its third day selling marijuana to patients who have been shut out elsewhere.
    "I've always been down on drugs," Whitt said.
    But after breast-cancer surgery, a stroke and five months of chemotherapy, Whitt said she wanted to give marijuana a try.
    "They told me I was going to die," she said. "I said bull ... I'm going to fight."
    She tried acupuncture, and her oncologist said he wouldn't support her idea of using marijuana as an alternative to pain medications that no longer worked.
    Brie Malarkey, managing owner of Breeze Botanicals at 315 Second St., advised Whitt that she would have to obtain a medical marijuana card from the state before she could sell her any cannabis.
    "Lots and lots of people who come in here don't have the card," she said. Malarkey directed Whitt to a couple of offices in Medford and Rogue River where doctors can issue the card for certain medical conditions.
    "People coming here have worked hard to go through a process," she said.
    Malarkey, who said she is not a marijuana user, spent a busy morning Wednesday talking to customers and explaining to marijuana growers the requirements expected before she could sell their products.
    She told growers that the marijuana had to be analyzed by a lab in Bend. So far, 50 percent of the samples have shown signs of mold or fungus, making them unacceptable for sale.
    In addition, Malarkey told growers she would fill out a 1099 form with the IRS for any marijuana she purchased from them.
    Growers have to allow inspection of the gardens, and she accepts only organically grown marijuana from Southern Oregon.
    In addition to Malarkey's by-the-book business dealings, the city of Gold Hill requires background checks for her employees and a 5-percent tax on any sale, including marijuana, which will go toward public safety.
    She's installed $10,000 in surveillance equipment, a requirement for the state license.
    In addition, the city required the dispensary to indemnify the city against any liability from the operation of the facility.
    Malarkey said she estimates she's already collected taxes totaling $250 in just the first two days of conducting business.
    Breeze Botanicals only started selling marijuana after Gold Hill City Council approved the idea with a 4-2 vote. She received a dispensary license from the Oregon Health Authority on May 9.
    "I did not dispense one gram of marijuana until I had the blessing of the city," she said.
    By contrast, the cities of Phoenix and Medford have enacted moratoriums and denied business licenses. These cities' actions have been upheld in Jackson County Circuit Court.
    Malarkey said she tried to open a dispensary in Ashland, but landlords were reluctant to lease to her.
    Since she opened, Malarkey said she's seen customers who formerly went to The Greenery in Phoenix and MaryJane's Attic and Basement in Medford.
    Most of the 94 state-approved dispensaries in Oregon are located in the Willamette Valley. Portland alone has 56 dispensaries.
    In Jackson County, four dispensaries have been approved, including Breeze and MaryJane's, but two dispensaries have chosen not to disclose their names, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
    Mark Shehorn, owner of Willy's Burgers in Gold Hill, said he is a "right-winger" who is generally not in favor of drug use, but he supports Breeze Botanicals.
    "I think it's great," he said. "Capitalism is fantastic."
    Shehorn said Malarkey appears to have a good business model and runs a clean operation.
    A friend's daughter who has Lyme Disease has received botanicals from Breeze that have helped with her symptoms, Shehorn said.
    He's heard that some locals will be trying to recall council members who voted to allow Breeze Botanicals to open. Any attempts to collect signatures in front of his business won't be tolerated, Shehorn said.
    "I'm going to rip that in half right in front of their face," he said.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.
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