Brownsville’s long-running marijuana saga has taken another turn.
A new public hearing on whether Green Cross Dispensary, 221 W. Bishop Way, can switch from a medical marijuana dispensary to a recreational pot shop will be held next week.
In July, the Brownsville Planning Commission voted 4-2 against a conditional use permit that would allow the change. The matter will be before the Brownsville City Council on appeal during a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19.
In general, medical marijuana operations are subject to far more stringent state rules and regulations regarding surveillance records, patient records and more, said Gayle Simpson, who owns Green Cross Dispensary with her husband Randy Simpson.
“Legally, they don’t have the right to turn us down. The land use committee made their decision based on their personal opinions, which are prohibitionist,” Gayle Simpson said.
The Planning Commission went against the will of voters, Randy Simpson said.
“Anybody who is pro-marijuana should be outraged. Even non-marijuana people should be outraged,” he added.
Planning Commission members, however, expressed concerns about adverse conditions that could occur with the recreational dispensary. Those include its impact on the health of children, the effects on a nearby playground, and whether edibles, which could be attractive to kids, would be sold.
Commissioners also noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and some were concerned with how quickly the Simpsons were switching from medical to recreational marijuana. Green Cross Dispensary opened in May off of Highway 228.
City staff had recommended that the Planning Commission approve the conditional use permit, however.
If the City Council rejects the Simpsons’ appeal, the Simpsons could take the case to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. And if they do so, the Simpsons likely would prevail, noted the city attorney, in July 31 Planning Commission meeting minutes.
The Simpsons are looking to switch to recreational marijuana because it makes business sense. Randy Simpson has said that Green Cross Dispensary has turned away numerous potential clients who don’t have Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cards, and there’s only a limited number of OMMP patients in the area.
“During the (Bi-Mart Willamette Country Music Festival), we were turning away dozens and dozens of people a day. It’s really frustrating for us,” Randy Simpson said.
The battle over marijuana issues in Brownsville has been happening for years.
The Simpsons tried to get a medical dispensary opened in a downtown storefront, but the city determined that location wasn’t congruent with local zoning laws for the historical, family-friendly area and its existing businesses.
In response to the city, in the first days after marijuana became legal on July 1, 2015, the Simpsons gave away 12 pounds of pot from the downtown storefront, Gayle Simpson said. Ironically, the free pot event would have been illegal for a dispensary to organize.
The pot giveaway didn’t endear the Simpsons to City Council members, however, and some publicly blasted the event.
The city finally had to relent on the Simpsons’ dispensary plans after the November general election. By a vote of 445-442, Brownsville voters approved the sale of medical and recreational marijuana.