Written for The Argus Observer. Published on May 1, 2015.
Though Ontario’s moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries has been extended until Aug. 1, city officials are bracing for shops potentially opening their doors today.
Today marks the end of the state-mandated medical marijuana dispensary moratorium, and some dispensaries might decide to ignore the Aug. 1 deadline.
Stormy Ray, who spearheads the Stormy Ray Cardholders Foundation, said there is a good possibility that Ontario will see medical dispensaries open for business sometime today.“I’m just about to call the Boise Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program to see if they know of anybody who isn’t going to open up,” Ray said. “All of [the medical dispensaries in Ontario] would like to take out a grievance [against the city] for what’s been done to them.”
According to the state of Oregon’s medical marijuana dispensary directory, which lists all dispensaries legally licensed through the state of Oregon, only one dispensary has been approved in Malheur County. That is 420ville, located at 432 N. Oregon St. in Ontario.
Ray said if medical marijuana supporters are “really lucky,” Senate Bill 844, which is currently being discussed in an Oregon Senate committee, will “nullify and veto everything that has come from Senate Bill 1531 that gave the cities and the county the right to play doctor and restrict accessibility to our medicine.”
The Ontario City Council amended its agenda during Thursday afternoon’s work session to include an executive session to consider potential legal actions in the ev
nt that shops do start selling products to the community.
After they moved back into their public meeting, City Council members again amended the agenda to include a discussion on the potential opening of medical
marijuana dispensaries today.
The Council has passed two ordinances regulating dispensaries in the last few months. The first extended the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries from today until Aug. 1.
“If anybody tries to open up a medical marijuana dispensary in Ontario prior to that, they will be violating the city code,” city attorney Larry Sullivan said. “That in itself would trigger legal action against that business or an adjunction to shut that business down.”
The second action by the Council was passing a medical marijuana dispensary business license. The license was approved April 22 and is currently in efect.
“If a dispensary were to open without obtaining such a license, the ordinance itself gives the city the right to proceed with an adjunction against that business and have that business shut down,” Sullivan said. “[It also allows the city to] impose daily fines against that business of several hundred dollars a day.”
The City Council, through a motion made by Councilor Norm Crume and seconded by Councilor Charlotte Fugate, authorized Sullivan to begin legal action specifically against medical marijuana dispensaries that violate the city’s ordinances without first consulting the Council. The motion was unanimously approved by those present at the meeting, which included everyone but Larry Tuttle and Tessa Winebarger.
Ontario Police Chief Mark Alexander said the department will be keeping an eye on the situation.
“We have an idea of these proposed locations, and we’ll follow up with assuring compliance,” Alexander said. “If they’re going to push it, I guess we’ll go through the motions. If their intent is to test us on it, then I guess we’ll let that process go through.”