Clay Bearnson is a pretty laid-back guy, and at first blush you might find his hip, bluesy gift for gab disarming.
Cross swords with him by spouting outdated ideas about marijuana, however, and you’ll see another side to the Medford city councilor and owner of Oregon Farmacy, a cannabis store in downtown Medford.
The only known city councilor in the state to own a marijuana store, 42-year-old Bearnson has been vocal in trying to push a reluctant Medford City Council to relax rules about pot, which last year decided to make it illegal to grow in backyards inside the city limits.
On the ongoing council debate about a loophole in the backyard grow ban that allows growing pot in greenhouses, he said, “It’s like a hemorrhoid that flares up every fall.”
When the council devised rules for recreational marijuana stores in the city, police and some councilors expressed concern that it could bring more crime to the city. Bearnson said the fears were unwarranted.
“Crime hasn’t increased,” Bearnson said. “The sky hasn’t fallen.”
Not only does Bearnson own a cannabis store, he’s also well known in the community for his other business, Gypsy Blues Bar.
Lately, though, he’s been hanging out at his spacious cannabis store on Evergreen Way, between Main Street and Sixth Street, which has sandwich-board signs situated off the sidewalks to help guide customers to the front door.
Inside, he’s got jars of flowers, edibles and other popular products. On the walls he hangs posters, including one referencing the propaganda film “Reefer Madness.”
When customers come into the store, Bearnson has a no-BS attitude about selling product.
He points to two edibles on the shelf that have the same amount of THC, but one costs $20 and the other $40.
“Which one would you pick?” he says.
Like every cannabis store in the state, Bearnson’s displays the percentage of THC, the active ingredient in products, next to jars of flowers. But he’s not buying the numbers.
“I think it’s complete bull****,” he says.
Bearnson said he’s got strains with high THC that produce a bigger buzz than strains with a lower THC numbers.
Cookies ‘n’ Cream has 24.11 percent of THC and is “OK,” according to Bearnson.
Chee Dawg, at only 13.95-percent THC, is altogether different.
“It does the trick,” Bearnson said.
He said the problem with testing for THC in flower isn’t with the labs but has to do with the random sampling of flower that is then averaged to come up with a percentage.
Still seeing a strong demand for flower, Bearnson said he’s got an assortment of potent products, some of which may not be suitable for beginners.
Some newer items on the shelf include Moon Rocks, which are infused flowers that have a whopping 50-percent THC and is recommended for advanced cannabis users.
Rosin Rolls, which are pre-rolled cannabis infused with kief and extract, also pack a significant THC punch.
“It’s for Friday nights,” says Bearnson.
While extracts are big sellers, Bearnson said he still has a fondness for flower.
Gillz Nilz, produced by local company Zen Pharms, has a 26-percent THC content and is known for its euphoric, happy high. It is one of his top sellers, he says.
Cannibinoil, or CBD, has attracted a lot of attention recently. Even though CBD doesn’t get you high, it’s widely touted to help with pain and inflammation.
“CBDs are the new gateway drug,” Bearnson quips.
Usually happy to talk to customers to help educate them, Bearnson said it can be frustrating. After all, he’s trying to run a business.
“A minor sale could be the result of a 20-minute conversation,” he said. “What’s hard to believe is a 20-minute conversation without a sale.”
He said he gets customers of all ages, as long as they are 21 or older, enter the store. They’re greeted with an array of flower and other products, including soft drinks and chocolate bars with THC.
“There’s a lot of 55-and-olders who are trying for the first time and for the first time in a long time,” he said.
Bearnson opened his store in May 2016, the third medical dispensary in the city. The store sells both recreational and medicinal marijuana.
Since then, two dozen stores have opened in and around Medford providing lots of competition.
“The saturation of the market is in full effect,” Bearnson said. This is when Darwinism comes into play.”
Despite the market problems, Bearnson said he thinks state and local officials are beginning to see that the problems they imagined with legalization haven’t come to pass. Previously, the only way you could buy cannabis legally was if you had a medical marijuana card. Bearnson said he, like a lot of Oregonians, are more confident that cannabis is here to stay.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, the number of medical marijuana cardholders was 9,066 in Jackson County in January but had dropped to 6,741 by April.
Bearnson just paid to register himself as a medical marijuana patient.
“I hope it’s the last time,” he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.