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Plans to Open Pot Dispensary in Medford

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MEDFORD, Ore. – The owner of an OMMP lounge wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary on Monday, but city officials and his own attorney say it’s unclear if that will happen.

Phil Carvalho owns “The Lounge” on East Main street, a spot where medical marijuana card holders can gather and smoke. Carvalho said he wants to open a dispensary called “Patients Helping Patients” inside that same building. He did not speak on camera, but Carvalho said he plans to open the facility on Monday, the same day Oregon will accept applications to open dispensaries.

According to Medford city records, Carvalho applied for a business license on February 24th, and it is still being reviewed. City leaders have said they would not grant business licenses to marijuana dispensaries, citing federal laws which classify marijuana as illegal.

Under city code, a facility operating without a business license can receive citations every day it is open. Medford Deputy City Attorney Kevin McConnell said it was unlikely the dispensary could open on the same day the state begins accepting applications.

Phil Studenberg, Carvalho’s attorney, was unsure if the facility would actually open on March 3rd. At first he claimed state laws allow dispensaries to operate for 14 days while their application is being reviewed. Later, he said he misspoke, and said the state can issue provisional licenses. He did not know how quickly Carvalho would receive a provisional license from the state.

Studenberg said he would look at his legal options if Medford city officials deny a business license.

“To allow cities to ban dispensaries would create a two-tier system for Medical Marijuana patients in Oregon and would violate the equal protection of laws,” Studenberg said in an e-mail. “We believe that the state dispensary law preempts cities from banning dispensaries and are prepared to litigate that matter.”

Neighbors along East Main Street were mixed in their opinions about the planned dispensary. People living next door said they welcomed the facility, saying it would provide medicine to medical marijuana patients.

But the owner of Dance Arts Center, which sits around the corner from The Lounge, said she was concerned about the dispensary being so close. She said she is worried about marijuana being available in an area with many children walking to dance class.

“My first priority is always safety in our community and safety for our children and families,” said owner Mary Cowden Snyder.

The co-owner of Nu Way Cleaners, which shares a parking lot with The Lounge and 42 Degrees smoke shop, said a dispensary could attract too many people.

“We have a parking problem here and anything like that is going to increase the parking problem,” said Roberta Mitchell. “We only have a few spaces.”

City leaders have said they would not approve business licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries. According to the city of Medford, a business that continues to operate without a license can be issued citations for each day that they remain open.