Hermiston Bans Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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HHC 3-3-14
Mike Mullins of Stoney Girl Gardens Foundation told the Hermiston City Council that his group opposes the city's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Monday night’s Hermiston City Council meeting drew a packed house with the overflow spilling into the city hall lobby. And they weren’t there to hear the council discuss the benefits of its new Community Enhancement Committee.

Instead, Monday night’s attention-getting agenda item was a proposed ordinance to ban medical marijuana facilities within the city limits. The ordinance – No. 2216 for those keeping score – comes one week after the council voted to seek a court injunction to stop a medical marijuana dispensary from opening in town.

Just as it was a week ago, the council was unanimous in voting in favor of the ban – but not before it heard from nearly two dozen people, most of whom spoke passionately against the ban.

D.J. Dickens of Hermiston said marijuana is the only medicine he can take that eases the pain he suffers daily due to on-the-job injuries he’s sustained. Dickens said he contracted Hepatitis C from an IV and now his body is unable to clean out physician-prescribed medication from his system.

“I’m pretty much screwed,” he told the council. “The only way to get by is with cannabis.”

Bill Reuter of Hermiston told the council it is throwing money away by banning medical marijuana dispensaries. Reuter said the city will be facing expensive lawsuits by people seeking to overturn the ban.

“I’m opposed to exposing the city to this financial burden,” Reuter said. “Especially since it could lead to hundreds of lawsuits. Wouldn’t it be better to use the money to build something for the citizens – like a YMCA?”

A couple from Pendleton told the council that medical marijuana is the only thing that effectively treated their 8-year-old daughter’s cancer.

Brandon Smith of Hermiston said his mother died nine years ago from a prescription drug overdose.

“If medical marijuana was available to her then, she’d probably still be alive today,” he said.

All told, 15 people spoke out against the band, while seven people supported the council’s action.

A medical marijuana dispensary – Columbia Basin Compassion Center – has been open on Highway 395 between Hermiston and Umatilla. That fact was pointed out several times by members of the council, as well as others who support the ban of dispensaries inside Hermiston city limits.

Steve Williams said he appreciates the fact that medical marijuana offers benefits to people who use it, but said he supports the council’s decision to ban facilities in town.

“It is available – but it doesn’t have to be available in Hermiston,” he said.

While medical marijuana is legal in Oregon for patients with a permit, it remains illegal under federal law, a point made by Councilor Manuel Gutierrez.

“One thing you have to understand is we have to follow federal law,” he said.

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