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Councilor plans to stop voting on pot issues

I would like to know why Medford Councilor Clay Bearnson is allowed to vote on all the decisions regarding the marijuana issues in the city. He has openly stated he is an active participant in the growing of marijuana and has applied for a license to sell medical marijuana. Why is this not a conflict of interest? He should recuse himself on all marijuana issues.

— A. Williams, Medford

We’ve been asked about this issue quite a bit over the past year. Bearnson has repeatedly said he plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the city, and he said recently that he plans to open the dispensary in downtown Medford sometime in April. He has also said he’s checked with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and has been told that he can still vote on matters related to marijuana.

However, Bearnson has also said he will stop voting on marijuana issues once he has a license to dispense marijuana. Other councilors have taken issue with him voting on this matter. However, it is not uncommon for public officials to disclose a possible conflict of interest and then state it will have no bearing on their impartiality when it comes to making a decision.

For instance, other councilors voted on the Travel Medford contract with the Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce even though many of the councilors have been chamber members.

We’ve sat in on many council meetings and only rarely has someone brought up the issue of Bearnson voting on marijuana issues.

In any case, A. Williams, Bearnson won't be voting on marijuana if his dispensary opens.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.