A new medical marijuana restaurant in Southern Oregon has gotten a city business license by changing to a bring-your-own-weed format.
The dream of a place where medical marijuana cardholders could eat a bowl of Mongolian barbecue laced with pot and smoke a bowl of hashish while waiting for their food has crumbled under the weight of a rare city ordinance.
The owners of the Earth Dragon Edibles Restaurant & Lounge in Ashland said Wednesday that they have secured a business license from the city of Ashland by getting rid of their free hash bar and switching to a bring-your-own weed format.
“We are not supplying it to anybody,” co-owner Kevin Wallace said. “We are just helping them with it. It seems to make all the difference in the world. I don’t know why.”
Co-owner Michael Shea said it is a disappointment to no longer be able to hand out free marijuana to patients, but “We’re glad the city was friendly, and we were able to make their adjustments to be able to keep going and serving cardholders.”
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Shea, a former teacher at his wife’s private kindergarten, and Wallace, a former carpenter on disability, had thought that if they gave away the pot ingredient, the restaurant would be legal under Oregon’s medical marijuana law. But they were thwarted by a city ordinance that denies business licenses to anyone violating state or federal law. Portland, where cannabis cafes have proliferated, does not have the same restriction.
“In hindsight, we probably should have checked the city law a little more closely in that area,” Shea said. “We haven’t given up on having a more dedicated restaurant for (medical marijuana) patients.”
The upside is that the restaurant is now open to everyone, not just medical marijuana cardholders.
Instead of putting in an order for medicated beef and broccoli, with a dose of hashish-infused grape seed oil provided free by the restaurant, medical marijuana patients must bring their own. If they don’t know how to process their dried marijuana into hashish and infuse it into cooking oil, Shea and co-owner Kevin Wallace will do it for them.
Then patients retire behind a purple privacy curtain to a corner of the restaurant decorated with a wall hanging of reggae singer Bob Marley to dose their food.
The loss of the hash bar is a blow, but they are considering erecting a tent out back where patients can smoke a bowl, Shea said
“We are jumping through a few hoops,” he said.
Ashland City Attorney David Lohman told The Daily Tidings newspaper that the city issued the business license after Earth Dragon’s owners said they would no longer serve marijuana with the food, but the legal issues remain fuzzy. Oregon law forbids ingesting cannabis in public, but it’s not clear if a restaurant is a public place.
The Ganja Gourmet in Denver had to scale back from a restaurant to takeout after the law was changed in Colorado. Owner Steve Horwitz said it was understandable that Earth Dragon was having its own problems.
“They made medical marijuana legal. That didn’t mean they wanted to have everybody partying all over the place,” he said. “It’s understandable that a restaurant or anybody with onsite consumption is having trouble. The solution is legalization.”
Marijuana advocates are trying to get a measure doing just that on the November ballot in Oregon. Washington state is already set to vote on the issue.