Medical marijuana patients run for council seat

A bar owner and a medical marijuana advocate have decided to run for the Medford City Council seat formerly held by the late Karen Blair.

Marlene Nuckols, owner of MaryJane's Attic and Basement, and Clay Bearnson, owner of the Gypsy Blues Bar, are both medical marijuana patients who plan to run this November for the Ward 2 council position, which is in southwest Medford.

Bearnson, 38, is the only candidate who completed his paperwork in time to be part of a selection process in which the City Council could appoint him before the election.

Bearnson, who ran against Councilor Eli Matthews in 2012, said he supports medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

But he said he thinks laws at the state and federal level will change rapidly, and a city ban on dispensaries enacted last year will be overturned.

An Oregon ballot initiative in November seeks to make marijuana legal for recreational use.

"I don't think they will be able to fight the tide," he said.

Bearnson, who is chairman of the Medford Arts Commission and is a member of the Medford Parking Commission, said he hopes he's selected as councilor by the city prior to the election.

Bearnson said he's generally supportive of the City Council, including its efforts to revitalize the downtown and build new police and fire headquarters.

"I hope to have some weight in their decision-making process," Bearnson said. "I have no intent to go in there and be a rabble-rouser."

Nuckols didn't collect enough signatures to meet the deadline to be part of the selection process. Of the 40 signatures she collected, only 17 were deemed valid. She said she plans to collect the additional signatures to run in the November election. The deadline for filing is Aug. 15.

Nuckols and her husband, Richard, have been outspoken advocates for medical marijuana. She said she and her husband discussed the possibility that he should run for the council position.

"We decided it was really important to put a woman back in Karen Blair's seat," Nuckols said. "We need more diversity."

Nuckols said she generally agrees with the political direction of the City Council on most issues, except its ban on medical marijuana.

"I think they're doing a pretty good job," she said, citing council members' efforts to bring more housing to the downtown and support the building of a local replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Nuckols, 43, is attempting to reopen MaryJane's, which was shut down last month in a dispute with the city over selling medical marijuana. If the city grants approval, MaryJane's would sell only American-made products, including clothing, candles, soaps, lotions, jams and jellies, but no products containing medical marijuana.

She also plans to offer pipes and other smoking products in a back section of the store that would be off-limits to those younger than 18.

Nuckols said she would work to lift the ban because it is hurting patients who need a safe and reliable source of their medication.

"Here in Medford, the ban kind of puts a stop to the money we could bring in to help with other social issues," she said. Other communities have taxed medical marijuana.

She said she's particularly interested in programs for veterans, the homeless and youth.

Councilor Eli Matthews said the council typically prefers to have three candidates to choose from, but will go through the interview process with Bearnson.

However, he said it is not a foregone conclusion that the council will ultimately select Bearnson.

The council could wait until the November election to let voters decide, he said.

Matthews said he hoped to get more candidates to create a more diverse council.

"I personally did meet with one Hispanic female," he said. "When she found out how much time was involved without getting paid, it was a deterrent."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him at

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