In Portland, Washington a man has come under scrutiny for storing some of the legal marijuana that he sold out of his dispensary at his home while running a childcare business there. So far, it seems no laws have been broken, however there are some concerns that the overlap is inappropriate. Do you believe that it is vitally important that legal marijuana not even be in the same home as children?
State regulators allowed a Portland man to have a childcare business in his home while owning a storefront dispensary selling marijuana.
Those potentially dueling interests didn’t surface until this summer, after two childcare employees quit and contacted the state. They accused the day care owner, Samuel Watson, of keeping large amounts of marijuana inside his Alameda home and said he was putting children at risk. Watson categorically denies the allegations, and state officials have not found him at fault.
Without key employees, Watson in June was forced to shut down his in-home day care and a second location in Concordia.
Now, Watson’s girlfriend is trying to reopen the Concordia day care, in the same location, with a new name. And Watson is trying to open a new state-licensed marijuana shop in the North Portland storefront he previously used for medical marijuana. His girlfriend boasts on social media that she is a “proud co-owner” of the recreational cannabis shop.
The case highlights a loophole in Oregon’s attempt to separate the burgeoning marijuana industry from day cares that watch over children.
In 2015, state regulators forced licensed childcare providers to make a choice: profit from pot or kids, not both. New rules prohibited anyone who applies for a childcare license from growing or distributing marijuana, either at the day care or elsewhere.
But the state defines a license holder as the “children’s primary caregiver.” That leaves room for a hands-off day care owner, such as Watson, to keep selling pot.
State officials say other rules take care of potential problems. No one can grow or distribute marijuana inside a day care, no adults can smoke cannabis with children present, and adults must store marijuana for personal use under lock and key.
Some parents, however, say that letting a cannabis entrepreneur live in a day care facility raises the risk children will be exposed.
“The licensing requirements need to change,” said Emily Hensley, who sent her infant daughter to Watson’s Concordia day care. Hensley filed a small claim against Watson seeking $1,100 in reimbursement for tuition and alternative childcare.
“People who want to be in the business of childcare should not be in the business of marijuana,” Hensley said. “Those things do not mix well.”
Others don’t want to rush to judgment.
Anthony Taylor, president of Compassionate Oregon, which advocates for medical cannabis patients, said state marijuana rules already offer adequate protections at day cares. Preventing pot entrepreneurs from owning a childcare business could be discriminatory, he said.
“It makes no difference that he owns a dispensary,” Taylor said. “It’s a red herring.”
It’s not clear how many day care owners in Oregon also have a financial stake in marijuana, because the Office of Child Care, the state regulator, doesn’t ask for that information. Nor does the agency review publicly available marijuana ownership records to identify matches.
“With the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana by the voters of Oregon, it is important for all levels of Oregon’s government to review existing rules, statutes and policies and update them as needed,” Dawn Woods, the state’s childcare director, told The Oregonian/OregonLive in response to written questions.
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