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Cave Junction backs out of pot lawsuit

CAVE JUNCTION — Cave Junction City Council voted 3-2 Monday to back out of its two-year-old lawsuit against the state that asked for a judgment on bans of medical marijuana dispensaries, and whether federal law preempted state law.

"We kind of got tired of waiting and spending money on it," said Councilor Dan Dalegowski, who made the motion to withdraw. "We wanted to move on. Our legal counsel said if we were going to keep going with the lawsuit, we couldn't move ahead and allow cannabis businesses, or try to get the 3 percent tax on recreational marijuana."

Dalegowski, Dan Bosch and John Gardiner voted to withdraw, while Councilor Margaret Miller and Mayor Carl Jacobson voted to stay the course. The vote came after three hours of executive session and public testimony.

"I wanted to see it through, whether we won or lost," Jacobson said.

The suit started because the city's business code was at odds with the 2013 state medical marijuana law allowing dispensaries.

Dalegowski said city officials were also worried that breaking federal law by allowing marijuana might jeopardize federal loans that were used to build sewage treatment and water filtration facilities.

Josephine County Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke ruled in 2014 that the state law did not prevent cities from denying business licenses to dispensaries.

Cave Junction gave a business license to the only dispensary in town, Providing All Patients Access, then revoked it, which resulted in another suit by the dispensary against the city.

Both suits are pending judgment.

Wolke did not address whether the federal Controlled Substances Act superseded state law, causing both the city of Cave Junction and the state to appeal to the higher court, Dalegowski said.

The League of Oregon Cities and the Association of Oregon Counties intervened on behalf of Cave Junction. According to a spokesperson for the League of Oregon Cities, the suit will continue even without participation by Cave Junction.

Dalegowski said the city will now update the business code so dispensaries such as PAPA will no longer be in conflict.

"This should make it easier for more medical marijuana facilities in town," he said.

Dalegowski is a licensed medical marijuana grower who also operates a computer business. He said he doesn't sell to PAPA. He is running against Don Moore for mayor to replace Jacobson, who is stepping down.

"I don't have a need to sell to a dispensary in the city limits of Cave Junction, but I would like to see that type of economic activity here," Dalegowski said.

The city has spent over $44,000 in the suit against the state, and also in defense of the suit against it by PAPA. The dispensary could not be reached for comment.

— Reach reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com.