SPRINGFIELD — The owner of a medical marijuana dispensary intends to sell her store and open a new one in Eugene. She is furious over local regulations that she says unfairly single out the new businesses.
On July 21, the City Council unanimously adopted local regulations for the dispensaries. The council had decided several months ago against a temporary ban on dispensaries, which some Oregon cities have adopted, opting instead to impose local regulations above what the state mandates.
The regulations set operating hours, bar minors from the premises, and require dispensaries to obtain a business license and dispensary employees to undergo a criminal background check, among other requirements. They were adopted on an emergency basis, meaning they took effect immediately.
Two days later, Bee Young, the owner of Wickit Weedery on Main Street, sent a scathing email to the city councilors. Her dispensary opened in February.
Young wrote that she is looking to sell her Main Street location and move her business to Eugene, where city officials have neither adopted a temporary moratorium nor any local regulations of dispensaries.
The dispensary will remain, Young said. Under state rules, she can designate a new operator for the dispensary, subject to approval by state regulators.
Young said she previously had three separate offers to buy her business and is reconnecting with those suitors. She is looking at three locations in Eugene to open her new dispensary.
Young accused city leaders of bowing to ignorance and fear in adopting the local regulations.
“I admit that if I had any idea that Springfield was so backward in their thinking and knowledge, I would never have chosen this location,” she wrote.
Mayor Christine Lundberg said she’s sorry that Young feels the city was being overly punitive but stands firmly behind the city’s position.
The federal government and some states remain at odds over the legality of marijuana, and the city is taking a cautious approach until the dust settles on the issue.
“I think we’re trying to be as responsible as possible, and still have some reasonable regulations so that everyone feels we’re covering all our bases,” she said.
Springfield has two operating dispensaries, including Wickit Weedery, with a third one likely on the way.
The dispensaries’ operators and some of their patients chastised the council during a public hearing last week for considering local regulations they deemed unfair.
Two speakers noted that the city was seeking to regulate the dispensaries more heavily than adult shops and strip clubs.
Young testified that required background checks for all employees makes it appear they are more likely to have criminal pasts.
“If you don’t do it for another business, why are you applying it to us?” she asked.
The council set the annual business license fee at $1,000, an amount it said was intended to offset the cost of the background checks, 10 times more than the city charges for a liquor license. The city intends to review the fee next year.
Councilor Hillary Wylie said state regulators require background checks for a variety of social service jobs.
“I again think this is an area where we’re feeling our way,” she said.
Jayson Thomas, the operator of the second Springfield dispensary, said the emergency clause sent “the wrong message to the public” that there are problems that need to be addressed.
He didn’t return a phone message seeking further comment.
Police Chief Tim Doney had reported few problems at the dispensaries when councilors discussed the local regulations two weeks ago.
The council did agree to Thomas’ request to allow dispensaries to operate until 10 p.m. so patients getting off a swing shift have time to pick up their marijuana. City staff had recommended dispensaries could remain open until 9 p.m.
“These regulations are a start to the conversation, not the end of the conversation,” Councilor Sean VanGordon said.
Two weeks ago, after councilors discussed the regulations, Young and Thomas said they would live with them.
They were strenuously opposed, however, to a land use regulation the council has yet to approve.
The city is considering requiring a buffer between dispensaries and public parks, libraries, licensed preschools or day care centers and residential neighborhoods. The state already bans dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school or another dispensary.
City officials and dispensary operators agreed a 1,000-foot buffer, which city staff had initially proposed, would practically outlaw dispensaries from the city because virtually all of Springfield’s neighborhoods abut commercial areas. The council is still interested in a buffer less than that.
The city planning commission will draft a recommendation on the buffer and other land use regulations for dispensaries, and the council is scheduled to consider them later in the year.
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