Medical marijuana ban upheld in North Bend, despite patient, advocate challenge

Hands and voice trembling, Lynne Keohi asked the North Bend City Council not to forget about her and other people like her.

“We’re not stoners,” she said, just before the council revised its June 7 moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. “We’re just trying to get by from day to day, and trying to do it legally.”

Keohi said she struggled for years with multiple sclerosis and the “devastating side effects” she experienced from other medications before agreeing to try medical marijuana. She was one of three patients to speak on the issue at the August 2 council meeting, and each urged the council to remember the patients.

Steve Sarich advised the council to not just consider the medical marijuana patients in the community, but to also work with them in a collaborative effort to plan for the facilities that he’s sure are coming to North Bend.

“It’s just bound to happen,” he said.

He said he’d be forced to sue the city if the council did not repeal the moratorium, because its current language would not just ban dispensaries and collective gardens, but individuals growing their own for medicinal use.

“That’s my house,” he said. “I’m completely legal under state law, but under your law, I’m not.”

The moratorium, unanimously modified, bans “The location, establishment, licensing, maintenance, or continuation of any medical marijuana or cannabis dispensary, any medical marijuana or cannabis production facility, any medical marijuana or cannabis processing facility, and any collective garden (as “collective garden” is described with Section 403 of ESSSB 5073) within the North Bend city limits,” for the next six months.

City Attorney Mike Kenyon said the city’s action will not put any individual patients at risk of prosecution because “the qualifying patient defense still exists within state law.”

He added that he agreed with Sarich’s prediction that the state legislature would clarify the state’s medical marijuana law in its next session, but he did not expect resolution of the issue before the moratorium is set to expire. Kenyon anticipated the city would need to renew the moratorium for another six months while it waited for clarity from the legislature, and developed zoning and development regulations for such facilities.

Council members voted in favor of the moratorium with some reservations. Dee Williamson wanted confirmation that the action would not interfere with individual patients’ crops, and Chris Garcia said he only supported the ban because there was no other legal protection for the city.

“I’m just really disappointed,” Sarich said following the meeting. He felt the council hadn’t read the legal analysis he’d provided at their request, and were not truly protecting public safety with the action. He is still considering a lawsuit against the city, but is waiting for a ruling on his lawsuit against the state to overturn the latest laws on medical marijuana, as signed by the governor with significant portions vetoed.

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