By Chad Garland Associated Press
SALEM, Ore. — State officials granted the first crop of licenses to Oregonians who want to open medical marijuana dispensaries on Friday, even while many cities and counties are implementing or considering bans on the pot stores.
The Legislature last year approved a measure legalizing the pot facilities that took effect this month. The dispensaries had previously operated in a legal gray area.
The Oregon Health Authority reported eight medical marijuana shops had been approved by late Friday, a small fraction of the 288 applications the agency has received since the state began taking online license applications March 3.
“For the first time, a legal and regulatory structure is in place to govern the operation of dispensaries,” said Tom Burns, director of pharmacy programs for the Oregon Health Authority.
Applications were denied for 22 facilities because of incomplete applications or because the facility’s location was within 1,000 feet of a school or another dispensary, the agency said. Another 20 facilities were granted provisional licenses that do not let them operate yet, but hold their applications open for 60 days so they can install security systems to complete the approval process.
Those that have been fully cleared can begin operating legally as soon as they get their permit certificates in the mail, said Karynn Fish, the agency’s spokeswoman.
That’s only if they aren’t barred by local authorities. Earlier this month, the Legislature gave cities and counties the power to block the facilities within their communities until May 2015, though local officials had asked for authority to enact permanent bans.
Nearly two dozen local governments have already passed or are considering ordinances to block the shops within their borders, at least temporarily. The Medford City Council voted Thursday to ban the facilities permanently, and Hermiston enacted a permanent ordinance to ban the shops earlier this month.
At least one of the approved facilities is in Hermiston.
Draft rules were released earlier this week that would allow facility owners to get a refund of the application fee if a moratorium blocks them from opening, but those rules will not go into effect until next week, Fish said.
Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann said the City Council has not discussed changes to its ordinance. He said he thinks the council wants more time and information before changing its position.