BROWNSVILLE — Brownsville will seek fines and possible jail time for people who violate its moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, the City Council has decided.
Councilors voted unanimously Tuesday to add a general penalty section to the city’s municipal code. The vote was to declare the action an emergency, effective immediately.
The section, which calls for fines of up to $500 or jail time up to 30 days for each offense, will apply to any ordinance that does not already carry specific penalties.
Tuesday’s vote was a direct response to actions by Randy and Gayle Simpson. The Brownsville couple, both medical marijuana cardholders, received state approval to open a dispensary but have been stymied by the city’s one-year moratorium, which is in effect through next April.
The Simpsons have held two “resource center” events this month at their downtown site, giving information and free medical marijuana to cardholders at each. Gayle Simpson said between 30 and 40 cardholders attended each event, most of them accepting “a couple grams apiece” of the drug.
The city contends the penalty is necessary to stop the Simpsons from effectively thumbing their noses at the city’s moratorium. The Simpsons counter that they are within their rights as cardholders to share medical marijuana with other cardholders however they choose.
The Simpsons have retained an attorney, Brian Michaels of Eugene, and said they would consult with him before deciding on a response to the city’s action.
Michaels was one of seven people who spoke Tuesday on behalf of the Simpsons’ events. One resident also spoke in favor of the city’s actions.
Oregon law allows the free exchange of medical marijuana between cardholders, Michaels said. “There is no moratorium on the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in the city of Brownsville. You’re not allowed to do it.”
But Lauren Sommers, attorney for the city, said the way she interprets the law, the Simpsons are effectively operating a dispensary through their events, and that flies in the face of the city’s ordinance.
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