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Panel takes no stance on city-dispensary question

Steven Dubois, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The committee drafting Oregon's rules for medical marijuana dispensaries warned potential operators to check with their local government before making a big investment.

Medford and Tualatin have already banned dispensaries, and members of the committee said it will likely be up to the courts to decide whether those cities have that right.

Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett, a member of the committee, said municipalities would likely argue they have the right to ban businesses that violate federal drug laws.

"I think people ought to be aware of these issues, before they step out on a ledge and waste their time and money," he said at Monday's hearing in Salem.

The Oregon Legislature this summer approved House Bill 3460, which allows medical marijuana users to purchase the drug from state-licensed dispensaries. The law is scheduled to go into effect in March, and the 13-person committee has been meeting since September to write the rules governing the dispensaries.

The panel spent hours taking a line-by-line look at 23 pages (http://is.gd/oo3UrF ) of mostly technical details, such as who will transport pot from dispensaries that go out of business, how to test marijuana for mold, mildew and pesticides, and whether warning labels on edibles must have a 16-point font size.

Operators of dispensaries must pay a $4,000 annual fee to the state, undergo an annual criminal background check and maintain an extensive security system that includes alarms and a panic button, according to the latest draft.

Advocates for medical marijuana complained that pharmacies are not required to have a panic button and other proposed requirements they consider burdensome, including a ban on marijuana consumption inside dispensaries.

Bovett, however, said security for dispensaries must be tough to avoid drawing the attention of federal authorities.

"If we make this a whole lot looser, and things go awry, the feds could come in shut down this whole program," he said. "I don't want to see that happen."