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Gold Hill council delays decision on medical marijuana dispensaries

After three hours of debate with a crowd of more than 70 people mostly opposed to medical marijuana dispensaries, the Gold Hill City Council tabled a proposed ordinance that would lift a moratorium and permit the city's first legal dispensary.

The late hour and the absence of two council members prompted the council on Monday to postpone the decision that would have paved the way for soon-to-open Breeze Botanicals to dispense medical marijuana. The proposed ordinance will be re-examined May 19.

Breeze Botanicals owner Brie Malarkey, who aided city planners in drafting the proposed ordinance, voiced frustration with citizens "passing judgment" on cannabis patients and her business. She plans to open a shop selling herbal remedies, food and bath products May 15 in the Gold Dust Center and wants to dispense cannabis.

Those against allowing dispensaries cited reasons ranging from an existing drug problem and lack of law enforcement in the city to concerns about long-term effects of marijuana.

Supporters voiced frustration with uninformed testimony, the region's lack of safe access to medical cannabis and discrimination against patients who use herbal medicine.

One of nearly two dozen who spoke, Sixth Avenue resident Mike Stanley voiced concern about federal implications on a cash-strapped city and obvious opposition to the business from citizens.

"People don't want to see more marijuana in this town and the big concern I have is the federal grants and whether or not this is going to affect any future grants we get," he said. "Everybody says it's legal, and maybe it is, but not on a federal level, and I think they're going to be looking out of the corner of their eyes at us."

Deb West, a Second Avenue resident, pointed to the growing number of cities enacting moratoriums and delaying local legislation relating to medical marijuana.

"I just do not think that we should be the benchmark city to start this. We are too small to overcome the federal issues," she said, offering a petition of what she said were more than 150 signatures representing citizens opposed to a dispensary.

"Last I looked, our country was represented by 'we the people.' You work for us and, in light of that, that means that you should bring this to a vote," West said.

Malarkey said people who supported her business were intimidated by those in opposition and that being a medical cannabis patient "is very personal and most patients are not comfortable standing up in public to talk about their medical issues."

Resident Joe Tate said permitting a dispensary would not attract new businesses to town and would deter potential residents.

"Having whatever you want to call it — a pot dealership — does not benefit our city," he said. "If I'm a family man, which I am, I have two children, and I'm looking for somewhere to live, I am not going to go, 'Hmm, let's choose the city that they sell pot in. Strip clubs are legal, too, but we don't need one downtown."

Malarkey said Tuesday she felt more resolved to be an advocate for patients.

"There was a perception that all people who come to town to use my business and who need medical marijuana are bad people," she said.

"That makes me just want to fight harder for the rights of people who need herbal medicine and who feel like their rights are being affected because they're being discriminated against."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.