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Cops close pot store for lacking license

Medford police on Wednesday shut down a marijuana store known as Patient Services on West McAndrews Road after Medford police received a number of complaints of alleged illegal sales of pot.

“They were selling marijuana without any state license or city license,” Medford police Lt. Kevin Walruff said. “We had a lot of complaints about it.”

Medical marijuana dispensaries can operate in the city as long as they receive a license from the Oregon Health Authority and a city business license.

Patient Services had a business license, but not to operate a marijuana retail store.

Walfruff said the store was also selling to customers who did not have a medical marijuana card.

The store received a citation, which carries a possible $250-a-day fine, but the citation is for operating a business outside the scope of its license and for not having a state medical marijuana dispensary license.

“It’s not a drug investigation,” Walruff said.

Code enforcement officials had received complaints about the business for some time, but Walruff said the investigation was on the back burner until the city started receiving more complaints recently.

“That individual could have done it right,” Walruff said. “He chose not to.”

Police will continue to monitor Patient Services, he said.

If Patient Services gets a license from the state, Walruff said the city could issue a business license at that time.

A representative at Patient Services declined to be interviewed, saying only that he was exploring getting a state license to dispense marijuana.

“I just found out that Patient Services’ business license was pulled by the police department,” said Cynthia Townsley Willis, a cannabis advocate who sometimes helps out at Patient Services. “I was floored when I got the call yesterday.”

Willis said on Friday she had previously gotten calls from patients asking whether the store sold medical marijuana, and her answer was always, “no.”

She said one of the volunteers who had been properly trained wasn’t following the guidelines.

Patient Services offered advice to medical marijuana patients on where to get a provider or on how to grow plants. The store has operated for 11 years, Willis said.

“We help people get through their first year, their first crop,” she said.

Willis successfully won a court battle with former Sheriff Mike Winters who denied her a concealed handgun license because she admitted to using medical marijuana.

Prior to the voter-approved legalization of marijuana last year, local law enforcement officers shut down a number of stores that were selling marijuana.

Phil Carvalho, owner of Patients Helping Patients, was shut down twice for trying to operate a dispensary. Patients Helping Patients is located in the Albertsons shopping center on West Main Street, a short distance from Patient Services.

Last October, the Medford City Council lifted its ban on cannabis dispensaries, effective Dec. 1. The council plans to ask voters this November whether they approve of selling recreational marijuana in the city and whether it should be taxed at 3 percent. Any dispensaries that open in the city will not be allowed to sell recreational marijuana until voters decide on the ballot measure this November.

Medford Councilor Clay Bearnson, who will soon open his own marijuana dispensary, Oregon Farmacy, in the near future, said he has been jumping through a lot of bureaucratic hoops to get his state license.

“You have to have respect for the law,” Bearnson said. “He (the owner of Patients Services) needs to abide by the same rules that everyone else needs to abide by.”

Some of those rules include security cameras and other security systems.

Bearnson has been hoping to open a dispensary, but the City Council had opposed allowing marijuana stores until last year.

“I made a point to wait for public policy to catch up with public opinion,” Bearnson said.

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