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Voters trounce pot sales

Pot took a beating in many cities in the county when voters on Tuesday night approved bans on recreational or medical sales.

"Our business will close as of the end of the year," said Craig Thompson, manager of Kush Gardens in Shady Cove. "And six jobs will be lost."

Kush Gardens and another dispensary, La Mota, both will have to stop selling recreational marijuana in Shady Cove if a 764-to-762 vote survives a likely automatic recount. 

Voters in Jacksonville, Central Point and Eagle Point overwhelmingly passed similar prohibitions on recreational pot producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers.

Jacksonville and Central Point voters also banned medical processors and dispensaries of cannabis.

Medford voters overwhelming banned outdoor pot gardens but did vote to allow sales of recreational cannabis in stores.

Kush Gardens plans to sell recreational marijuana at its Medford dispensary on Court Street, but Thompson said the inability to sell it at the Shady Cove store will gut his sales.

"Eighty percent of my business is recreational cannabis," Thompson said.

He said Shady Cove will be faced with more empty storefronts if Kush Gardens and La Mota both close down.

"It's going to look like a ghost town," he said.

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said if the close vote holds in Shady Cove when the election is certified in a few weeks, it would trigger an automatic recount.

"At this point, it's looking like it," she said.

She said up to a four-vote difference would be sufficient to trigger the recount.

In Medford, the approval of recreational sales has been long hoped for by the six dispensaries that operate inside city limits. The measure, which would have banned retail sales, was defeated 52 to 47 percent.

"I'm just totally stoked," said Phil Carvalho, owner of Patients Helping Patients, which now has two locations at 841 W. Stewart Ave. and 2390 W. Main St.

Carvalho said he plans to open a second storefront next to the West Main location for recreational sales and combine recreational and medical marijuana sales under one roof at his newest location on West Stewart.

"A lot of people were leaving Medford to go to other cities to get marijuana," he said.

Cities that opt for the ban on recreational sales of marijuana will not receive a portion of the 17 percent state tax and wouldn't be eligible for an additional 3 percent local tax.

Voters in Shady Cove, Eagle Point, Central Point and Jacksonville overwhelmingly approved the 3 percent tax on Tuesday but won't be collecting it because they also banned recreational sales.

Kevin McConnell, Medford city attorney, said Medford will be able to get its portion of the state taxes on marijuana as well as the 3 percent local tax passed by voters Tuesday night.

He said the city previously passed a ban on outdoor grows but with the voters' approval of that ban, the City Council is expected to codify the ordinance in December. He also expects the council to take action on the voter approval for retail sales of marijuana in December.

McConnell said that with surrounding cities such as Central Point and Jacksonville approving bans on recreational stores, Medford should receive extra tax dollars next year because customers from surrounding cities will shop for recreational cannabis in Medford.

But it wasn't all thumbs-up for pot in Medford, as the outdoor growing ban was approved 2 to 1.

"I'm disappointed in the city of Medford's ban on outdoor grows," said Brent Kenyon, a marijuana consultant and owner of The Wharf restaurant.

He said he is considering filing a suit to block the ban because he thinks it interferes with the rights of medical marijuana patients.

"We're going to have to do what we have to do to protect patient rights," he said. "I don't think the city has the right to ban medical grows."

Residents could grow marijuana indoors in Medford, but Kenyon said it would be expensive to set up that kind of operation and could be potentially hazardous in some of the city's older homes. He said Oregon considers itself a "green" state and growing outdoors is greener than growing indoors.

Councilor Dick Gordon said he thought the voters in Medford had been pretty clear on what they wanted, both to allow recreational sales and to ban outdoor grows.

"I would say we have a very fine mandate from the general public to fight whatever comes through from him (Kenyon) in that vein," he said.

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

Phil Carvalho, owner of Patients helping Patients in Medford, is happy that sales of recreational marijuana was approved by voters in Medford. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch