Former Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal is about to open his own recreational marijuana store in Medford, even though he expressed concerns while in office that marijuana legalization might open up a "Fort Knox for the criminals."
Breidenthal, a Republican who was elected commissioner in 2012 but lost in last year's primary to Bob Strosser, is opening American Cannabis Co. at 2131 W. Main St.
Oregon Liquor Control Commission spokesman Mark Pettinger said American Cannabis Co.'s license was mailed Friday after Breidenthal paid a fee of $4,750. Pettinger said the OLCC doesn't have any other licenses pending for Breidenthal or his other companies.
Breidenthal is listed as the sole contact for American Cannabis and has $150,000 in bank accounts to finance the business, according to his application.
Breidenthal paid $250 on Dec. 2, 2016, to begin the application process under the name Marigold Enterprises LLC, doing business as American Cannabis Co. Breidenthal created Marigold Enterprises on Nov. 9, 2016, listing an office at 1312 Antelope Road, White City, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.
Breidenthal started another business on Sept. 23, 2016, called Capital Pacific Advisors Inc., which lists Breidenthal's home address in Medford, state records show.
The city of Medford hasn't received an application yet from American Cannabis for a business license, but such applications are typically submitted after license approval by the OLCC.
Breidenthal could not be reached for comment Friday or Monday, despite repeated phone calls and visits to his business. Breidenthal was inside his new business on Friday holding a meeting in his office, but was out of town Monday. Display cases and a new sign for the business already have been installed.
Breidenthal remains under investigation by the Oregon Attorney General's office for possible financial reporting violations while serving as commissioner, Department of Justice spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson confirmed Friday. The AG’s review follows an Oregon Government Ethics Commission investigation into an Association of Counties campaign account Breidenthal initially used to run for an office on the Western Interstate Region, a land use reform group. The Ethics Commission suspended its investigation pending the AG probe. Breidenthal has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
Breidenthal's latest venture is located a short distance from another cannabis shop, Patients Helping Patients in the Albertsons shopping center. A third marijuana store plans to open across the street from American Cannabis.
"I don't like how everyone is right on top of each other," said Phil Carvalho, owner of Patients Helping Patients. "They should be spread out a bit more."
Carvalho is particularly concerned because his business isn't as visible from Main Street as his two competitors will be and has put up flashing lights and signs to get more attention.
Carvalho was the first medical marijuana dispensary to legally open its doors in Medford. Others tried to open up dispensaries in years past, including Carvalho, but ran afoul of business license laws in Medford.
Locating cannabis stores too close together was one of Breidenthal's several marijuana-related concerns while in office. He served on the 16-member OLCC Recreational Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee.
In April 2015, Breidenthal joined other commissioners in voting to locate medical marijuana dispensaries within the county a half-mile apart, greater than the 1,000-foot state regulation. Recreational marijuana businesses don't have the same requirements.
At the time, Breidenthal said it was prudent to move slowly on the issue of locating dispensaries until the county can gauge whether they are having an impact on communities.
"A lot of people are really nervous and scared about the impacts," he said then.
In April 2014, Breidenthal said unintended consequences of dispensaries must be considered, such as adults smoking marijuana in public, especially around children.
"There's a lot of unanswered questions," he said.
In September 2013, the Board of Commissioners expressed concern about illicit drug activity and feared increased crime rates because of the upcoming legalization of marijuana.
"You might as well be opening up Fort Knox for the criminals," Breidenthal said at the time.
Medford City Councilor Clay Bearnson, who owns his own cannabis dispensary in Medford, said he thinks the Jackson County commissioners over the years have created onerous laws that have hurt his industry.
"In my opinion, Jackson County has created more hurdles than bridges to the cannabis industry," he said.
As one example, Bearnson cites the county's ban on outdoor cultivation of marijuana on land zoned rural residential. However, he said the commissioners haven't cracked down on growing fruit, vegetables and other agricultural businesses on rural residential properties.
As to Breidenthal's new venture, Bearnson said, "I wish him good luck and welcome to the business."