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Oct-30-2014 16:40printcomments

Ban on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries is Lifted in Salem

Salem is respecting the Oregon voters by giving patients a place to access their medicine, legally.


(SALEM, Ore.) - On Monday, the Salem City Council voted to lift the moratorium which had stopped any new medical marijuana dispensaries from opening in the city. The Council had approved a six-month moratorium earlier this year.

The City of Salem Council Subcommittee on Medical Marijuana Dispensary Regulations was formed last spring and has worked for months on a plan that would work best for all involved.

They’ve made presentations to the Council along the way, and the last piece of the plan needed to move the process forward was agreement on city licensing fees, explaining “it is necessary to establish a fee schedule that attempts to recover the administrative and enforcement costs of the medical marijuana facility licensing program”.

Done. The Council agreed to the detailed plan and applications for licenses to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Salem were accepted beginning October 28, 2014, for those with proof of registration with the Oregon Health Authority.

There are eight dispensaries that have been operating legally under the moratorium rules while all of this was hashed out by the sub-committee, and those operating dispensaries face the same regulations and fees as the new businesses.

High Cost of Selling Medical Marijuana

Now that the council has voted to lift the moratorium, several new dispensaries will be opening up in Salem. But what will it cost them? According to Kacey Duncan, Salem’s deputy city manager, the fees for a medical marijuana dispensary staffed by two people to open its doors in Salem, Oregon is an additional $1,021 on top of the $4,000 required by the State.

Once applications have been received, they are then reviewed by the Land Use Planning Division, the Building and Safety Division, and the Permit Application Center where they are approved or refused.

Approved applications go on to the Salem Police.

The City has added a requirement for “all applicants, principals, persons with a financial interest, employees and volunteers”; each person will need to go to the Permit Application Center and have their photo taken, and pass a criminal background check conducted by the Salem Police, for $160 per person.

The Police go over the background checks and overall review before the applicant receives the final “ok”.

Oversight by the City Police

The State of Oregon regulates the dispensaries under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, but the city of Salem has ruled that there will be additional oversight of the patients-only establishments, including “compliance inspections” by the Salem city police.

The new ordinance requires that medical marijuana dispensaries will not operate within 100 feet of residentially-zoned property, unless the location abuts a major arterial street or parkway, and the same distance for certified child daycare facilities.

A dispensary must be no closer than 1000 feet from a school, 1000 feet from any other dispensary, and 500 feet from public parks or playgrounds.

It also notes that “The facility must utilize an air filtration and ventilation system that confines all odors associated with the facility to the facility premises.” But since there is no smoking of the medicinal herb on the premises, the smell is not likely to be a big challenge for most operations.

There will be an annual review process where all information is updated and an application fee is charged. The second year of operation, the "New License Fee" ($481) won’t be required. Ongoing fees include the application processing fee ($220), as well as the fees for criminal background checks. In six months, the Salem City Council plans to review the fee schedule.

Back to Black Market

Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore, a subcommittee member, said the medical marijuana clinic operators he's met in Salem are law abiding. Then he added that the current group of clinic operators may not be representative of everyone who gets into the business.

The black market is a real concern, but not necessarily how you might think.

Dispensaries do not "sell out the back door". That is not why they are in business. No, the black market is a threat just based on economy.

As fees trickle down and cause increases for legal medical patients, some may be driven out of the dispensary and to the street corner, where they can get a better deal. Marijuana has been selling on Salem’s streets for decades upon decades, far longer than “medical marijuana” has been legally available.

If people want to find marijuana, they find it, and whether or not there is a dispensary in their town is irrelevant. High prices at the dispensaries and at the legal retail outlets (as in Washington and Colorado) help the black market thrive. You’ll get no argument from them about making dispensaries “pay the price”, that just helps drive the masses their way.

Many people have mentioned the inequality in expectations for other businesses. “There are no background checks for people that work in liquor stores, or grocery stores,” said one patient who opted to remain anonymous.

“All these fees will just come down to the patients, and we will have to pay the price. It’s unfair to punish us, when all of this is so unnecessary.”

True enough. Most advocates believe that with time, these misnomers and misjudgments based on old stereotypes will fall away. Being pro-Cannabis has always been a fight against propaganda and "reefer madness".

Bill Smalldone, a former city councilor and another member of the subcommittee suggested the city could be on the verge of going overboard with regulations directed at medical marijuana.

"They are now legitimate businesses and should be treated as such," Smalldone said.

A copy of Salem Revised Code 31.020(a) can be downloaded from:



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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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