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Marijuana Law: Oregon Court to Weigh State vs. Federal Law

A few weeks ago we wrote about local moratoriums on medical marijuana sales in Oregon. As with Washington's recreational marijuana regulations, cities in Oregon were given the choice to enact local one-year bans on medical marijuana dispensaries. As the deadline to enact the bans passed yesterday, Oregon's resistance to medical marijuana became clear. More than 150 cities and counties decided to enact the bans. Though some chose to ban the dispensaries reluctantly, others were firm in their opposition, even claiming the moratoriums do not go far enough.

Some of the cities choosing to ban medical marijuana sales undoubtedly want to see how the business plays out in other communities before allowing it locally. For others, however, the conflict between state laws (which allow for medical marijuana dispensaries) and federal laws (which prohibit them) must be resolved before local sales can be justified. That's why the city of Cave Junction recently filed suit against the State of Oregon.

Cave Junction's suit seeks to resolve this conflict by judicial determination as to whether Oregon's medical marijuana law can trump federal laws that prohibit the same conduct. Generally, the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides federal law shall preempt conflicting state laws. If the court determines the Supremacy Clause applies, Cave Junction and other counties in opposition cannot be forced to embrace medical marijuana dispensaries locally.

But why not just enact the moratorium like the 150+ other states? Cave Junction's suit also calls into question the validity of the one-year moratorium. It argues if the activity violates federal laws, cities like Cave Junction should be allowed to enact permanent bans until those laws are changed. A number of other Oregon cities are also seeking permanent medical marijuana dispensary bans.

As we've said before, leniency in terms of the marijuana industry will not come without complication. If you're considering opening up shop in Oregon or Washington, a marijuana business attorney can help you to navigate these and other obstacles. 

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