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The Greenery awaits its day in court

Supporters of The Greenery, a medical marijuana dispensary shut down by the city of Phoenix, are preparing for their day in court later this month.

City attorney Ryan Kirchoff said Friday that a hearing to determine whether the downtown dispensary can reopen is scheduled for Sept. 22.

A temporary injunction was issued by Jackson County Circuit Judge Ron Grensky in June, blocking the nonprofit dispensary from providing medicinal marijuana on the grounds that it violated federal law, went against a yearlong city moratorium and did not possess a license to operate under the state medical marijuana program guidelines.

Previously located in Ashland, The Greenery opened in downtown Phoenix in January without a business license after Executive Director Andrea Adams said a city planner told her that a nonprofit dispensary would be a permitted use in the downtown.

After a year of heated debate between supporters of the dispensary and city officials, the facility was shuttered just weeks after appointment of Kirchoff as the city's legal counsel.

While the facility initially offered consulting services following its June closure, Adams said this week she had posted a sign on the door earlier this summer and had been referring patients to a pair of dispensaries in nearby Talent.

"We had done a lot of patient outreach at first, after the closure, to make sure patients still had safe access to their medication," Adams said Thursday.

"But with dispensaries now being opened up successfully in surrounding areas, the most responsible option is to give them those two legal options. On our answering machine, if you call, the two addresses are on there. So we're literally sending our business to the competition. But what else can we do? Screw everyone over because we're getting screwed?"

Adams produced a copy of the letter, from a former city planner, for the Mail Tribune this week, voicing frustration at the previous year's efforts to operate a functional business while receiving opposition — and even citations — by city officials.

Kirchoff, who has worked on similar cases in other areas of the state, said that the upcoming court case likely would not be much different from the June hearing because of very little change in the city's standpoint.

The Greenery has since obtained its state license, he noted, but the city still has an active moratorium on dispensaries and marijuana distribution still violates federal law.

"The bottom line is that their right to do what they're doing under state law is preempted by federal law," Kirchoff said.

The city charter, he noted, holds City Council members to the task of upholding city, state and federal law.

A ballot measure in November will seek voter approval of a charter amendment that would remove the oath to uphold federal law, in order to spare council members from violating federal law after the city's moratorium is lifted in May.

"The issue has been debated thoroughly and politically and otherwise," Kirchoff said. "In cities around the state, some have made the decision politically that it's illegal to do that and some have take position that if state law allows it, then the feds can enforce it if they want to."

Mayor Jeff Bellah said, in his opinion, little had changed since the temporary injunction.

"There's really nothing changed from our standpoint. We're still standing on the point it was against federal law. So that's pretty much that."

Adams said she selected the city of Phoenix for the building she purchased, the ability to get owner-financing and the city's initial approval of her business model.

"I think we will ultimately win this battle, but what's incredibly difficult right now is trying to maintain any kind of a life when you have no income and there's this ongoing battle," Adams said.

"The only reason we're OK here is because the previous owner who financed the building has been very generous and supportive and flexible. And because we have attorneys who aren't focused, for now, on being paid in full."

Adams said supporters of medical cannabis and The Greenery "aren't going to give up on fighting for patients."

"We're still fighting, because how could we give up now? But five of our staff, since the closure, have moved in with other of us staff and had to give up their homes. Four of us are living in a two-bedroom and some people are even camping in staff members' yards. ... We've come too far to give up, but I don't know how much more some of us can take."

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