A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Dispensaries: Lots of comment, no effect

Written March 26th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Albany City Hall, where you might as well save your breath.

Albany City Hall, where you might as well save your breath.

So much for public comment at Albany City Council meetings. It doesn’t mean much to the council — or anything actually — when it comes to medical marijuana and legal dispensaries.

On Wednesday night the council spent 95 minutes listening to 23 people on two proposals, one to ban medical pot dispensaries for a year, the other to allow them but with restrictions in addition to those imposed by the state. Twenty-one of the speakers, one or two of them in tears, opposed one or both proposals. They talked about how they were able to function at work or suffer less pain because of what has proved to be medicine to them. Some of them related their problems finding medical marijuana when they first got their cards under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. Most of them talked about the benefits of being able to buy the material from a legally authorized and state-regulated dispensary.

The council listened, but four members evidently did not hear them. Councilors Rich Kellum, Floyd Collins and Bessie Johnson repeated what they said before, that they favored the proposed one-year Albany ban. Councilor Bill Coburn had voted earlier to consider a ban, then told me Monday he would not vote for one, but on Wednesday said he would go for at least a temporary ban after all while the council gets more information. He mentioned he had received a call from state Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, on how the legislature had acted hastily in authorizing dispensaries last year.

Councilors Ray Kopczynski and Dick Olsen indicated again their opposition to the ban, and Olsen also is against restrictions. Kopczynski considered it “unconscionable” for the council to deny citizens convenient local access to what the state says is a legal remedy.

Their opposition prevented the ban to be enacted Wednesday. It will come up again for a council vote on April 9, and unless Coburn changes his mind again, it will have the four votes required to pass and take effect immediately. If the dispensary ban passes, the council won’t take up the ordinance calling for additional rules.

Coburn asked that the text be clarified so as not to affect — and inadvertently ban — Canna Kitchen, an Albany business that processes material for medical marijuana card holders so they don’t have to smoke it.

On April 9, the customary public comment period will come after the vote on the ban, so members of the public can save their breath, as they could have Wednesday for all the effect they had. (hh)

If you’re interested, you can see Wednesday’s entire Albany council meeting and medical pot discussion rebroadcast every weekday at 7 pm. on the Albany Comcast cable system, channel 28 in Linn County and channel 23 in Benton County.

8 responses to “Dispensaries: Lots of comment, no effect”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “tiny” grammar issue: “so members of the public can save they breath, as they could have Wednesday for all the effect they had. (hh)”

    Probably should be “…save their breath…”

    (At least we could delay this by 2 weeks to allow Canna Kitchen, et al, to continue helping patients…)

  2. Greg Bechtel says:

    It is with a heavy heart that I sat through all of the testimony just to have City Council utterly ignore their constituency. When the redemption center was being considered it took a handful of people saying they didn’t support it to get it killed. Last night a standing room only crowd told city council they didn’t support the ban…. and yet it will continue.

    Mayor Konopa stated “hundreds” of people support the dispensary ban, yet the only person who spoke last night in favor of the ban also veered off course dramatically and went into some tirade about fish or whatnot. Not entirely sure the rantings of a single local loon represent the “hundreds” Mayor Konopa claims to be in opposition to dispensaries. Where was the opposition? How can the council look out over a crowd of near 100 people and say “You’re here, you’re in need, we don’t care”?

    Regarding Canna Kitchen and Mr. Coburn’s belief that they are a legitimate organization that helps people. They are. As is AAHS. Unfortunately, a moratorium on dispensaries shuts down Canna Kitchen, as they are registered with the state of Oregon as a dispensary. As such, Canna Kitchen will be dispensing dry marijuana, just like AAHS. Lastly, SB1531 sets rules that effectively eliminate edibles, which is a staple of Canna Kitchen’s business. Mr. Coburn, a ban on dispensaries is a ban on Canna Kitchen. There is no language short of “This ban does not apply to Canna Kitchen” that could be added.

    If the concern is saving Canna Kitchen, AMC 05.08.025 will solve that, since, according to Mayor Konopa, they are outside residential zoning by 300′. If the concern, Mr. Collins, is for pharmacists to be involved REGULATE THAT! The city has the tools to regulate however they see fit, and their answer is just to blanket prohibit. Why create such a difficult situation for patients when it could be so easily avoided with simple regulations.

    Further, I, too, spoke to Mr. Coburn following Monday’s meeting and he told me, as well, he is not going to change his vote against the dispensary ban. Suddenly, Andy Olsen swoops in and Bill Coburn is the flag bearer for banning everyone but Canna Kitchen? What happened? Why this drive to shut us down when we do EXACTLY the same thing as Canna Kitchen (except we get our marijuana from growers with proper paperwork, then test it, then have it processed by certified organizations IAW state law – I can’t speak on CK’s internal processes). Canna Kitchen and AAHS are, essentially, Target and Fred Meyer. Some products they are better at, some we are better at, but we are in the exact same industry with the exact same patient-focused mindset.

    We don’t want Canna Kitchen to go away. We refer patients to them and vice versa. We also don’t want patients to be FORCED to commute to another community when a fair amount of them are non-ambulatory.

    Mr. Kellum started his comments with a story about his cousin who is an OMMP patient with glaucoma who gets relief… yet he expects a GLAUCOMA patient to drive to another community for their medication?

    What about patients who can’t drive? Well, says Mr. Kellum, someone should help them. Yes, Mr. Kellum someone should, does, and will continue to. They are called Canna Kitchen and AAHS.

    The biggest problem with this “wait and see what other communities do” strategy is that other communities ARE NOT ALBANY. They don’t have our populace, our demographics, our economy. The Democrat Herald even ran a list of the dispensaries who filed in Corvallis and Albany. I’m proud to say, AAHS was the ONLY one on the list without a direct reference to marijuana or cannabis. If we moved in next door, you would never even know what we do, and we get people DAILY asking what we are and what we do.

    Other communities may not have an AAHS or Canna Kitchen. They may be populated with “The Dank Tank”s: what the Mayor has come to call “Head Shops” (which is a misnomer, since a “head shop” is just a shop that sells pipes and things). In Albany, we don’t have any of the “shadier” dispensaries that have caused such a stigma. Albany’s two dispensaries are ran by patient-focused, local business owners who have personal connections with the patients we serve. We’d like to keep it that way and AMC 05.08.025 would go a LONG way to do that. A ban just guarantees patient burden and a lawsuit against the city.

    Lastly, we heard from a friend that Andy Olsen has some comments to make about AAHS, and I hope this is just the rumor mill turning and that there is no truth to it. It seems Andy Olsen is describing AAHS as “some stoner kid who hitchhiked down from Portland to open a dispensary”. As I’m 36, I hardly could be considered a kid, so I can only assume he means our CEO, Conner Buchert who is a multi-generational Albany resident, OMMP patient and caregiver, exceptionally hard worker, and 19 year old who blew me away with his work ethic and drive, which secured his position as CEO. He is learning the job, but we needed someone in the position, he volunteered, and is doing exceptional work on patients behalf. Conner has distinguished himself as a true advocate for patients, making it even a point to call Kellum out on his hypocrisy on Monday night.

    So if Mr. Coburn flipped his vote in an effort to ban AAHS because of some ridiculous story about a member of our team, I would be shocked and appalled. Unfortunately, his comments last night do lend a bit of credence to the focus on trying to ban just us, stating explicitly that he wants to do a moratorium but protect Canna Kitchen. I really hope that’s not the case.

    Mr. Coburn referenced a coffee we had one morning and said I probably was wondering what happened. I responded (against protocol, my apologies for that), “Just give us time, Bill”. If they want to wait and see, then wait and see what Albany organizations do for Albany patients. Corvallis, Salem, Portland, Eugene, these are not Albany. Albany is a unique place and can only behave as Albany can.

    Sadly, our City Council seems to not care a whit what the people of the city want… on this, the land-purchase for the police station, the redemption center… the list goes on and on and on. Maybe there is some truth to the complaints of cronyism leveled at our council. Maybe it’s time for a change in leadership…

    • Jim Clausen (aka "loon") says:

      Apparently Mr Bechtel is not aware that the “Public Comment” section of city council meetings means literally “comments from the public”. It is far more than just ‘comments about medical marijuana’. If Mr Bechtel were to attend city council meetings for more than his own personal agenda, he might realize there is more going on in the city than just medical marijuana. People often choose to speak in the “Public Comments” section about things other than medical marijuana.

      Yup, pointing out the city would be in violation of federal law – should they not pass the moratorium – is “loony”… Yup, putting into words the possible effect violation of federal law might have on the trust of future business’ is “loony”… Yup, pointing out that a flagrant disregard of law would have consequences is “loony”… Yup, pointing to new studies by a distinguished and respected expert on an old city problem (something other than marijuana) is “loony”…

      All evidence to the contrary, were Mr Bechtel not so self absorbed pursuing his agenda, actually getting involved in city “whatnot”, he might not be so quick to judge others as “loons”…

    • Rich Kellum says:

      Let’s see if I have this straight, OMMP patients can not drive or be driven, 12 miles?

      Just how do they get to your location now, Mr. Bechtel?

      Patients can still grow or have grown for them 6 mature plants and a number of immature plants, just like now, there is no change in that.

      As to our not paying attention to the “people,” you told the mayor that if there was an attempt at a ban that you would “fill the room” and you did. Those folks spoke of their need for marijuana, not much about the ordinances before the council. We did listen to people in the phone calls and conversations that we had. The mayor says her conversations were about 50-50; mine, however, were about 85% for the moratorium.
      Sadly, you do not seem to recognize that my 85% have rights too.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “Let’s see if I have this straight, OMMP patients can not drive or be driven, 12 miles?”

        Of course they can Rich, but that is intentionally missing the point. That obviously being, “Why should they have to do so?”

  3. kathy says:

    Maybe the city council should put it to a vote of the people in a special election. They do it when they want to levy funds.

  4. John Sajo says:

    Hasso – The amazing thing is that this story of local government ignoring constituents is being repeated in nearly every town in Oregon. The Roseburg city council met twice before banning dispensaries. At the first meeting, the only speaker in favor of a ban was Senator Jeff Kruse. The other 50 people in attendance were all opposed. At the second meeting, no one spoke in favor of the ban but it passed 5-2. The League of Cities did a good job of confusing the issue. Only they know why delaying safe access to medicine for the sickest and most vulnerable is a good idea.


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