5 owners of Oregon child care sites have pot cards
SALEM — Five Oregon home-based, day-care centers are owned by people who have medical marijuana cards, officials said, prompting Gov. John Kitzhaber to say they should have to choose between their business and their pot.
The state Office of Child Care has long viewed medical marijuana use as a private health matter that isn't disclosed to the general public or parents of children at the centers.
Providers have conditions attached to their care licenses allowing them to use marijuana as long as they lock up the drug and paraphernalia, avoid smoking it in front of children, and have another adult present while under the influence.
The state, however, changed course following media scrutiny. Parents of children at the five centers were notified last month that the owners had pot cards, and the names of the centers were made public.
“The governor's priority is making sure children in child care and early learning programs are in healthy environments and actively engaged in learning,” said Melissa Navas, a spokeswoman for Kitzhaber.
Navas said the governor is asking the Early Learning Council, which he appointed to oversee early childhood education, to take action so medical marijuana cardholders are prohibited from being licensed child-care providers.
The council meets Aug. 6 and could adopt new rules, although it's unclear whether the panel has authority to ban marijuana cardholders from owning child-care centers without legislative action.
Kitzhaber's Republican rival, state Rep. Dennis Richardson, had seized on the issue, saying last week that “the governor has a responsibility to make sure provisions like this don't slip through the cracks and put our children in danger.”
Applicants for child-care licenses are not currently asked whether they have medical marijuana cards, so the state knows only about those who volunteer the information. The application will change after the Early Learning Council meets in August, said Crystal Greene, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education.
Child-care providers who give up their medical marijuana card and meet all other requirements will be allowed to keep their child-care license, Greene said.
One of the child-care centers, Alphabet Academy in Salem, was shut down for multiple unspecified violations, state officials said.
The other four centers received surprise inspections last month and were found to be following the conditions on their licenses, said Jada Rupley, Oregon's director of early learning.
Bridget Towles, owner of B's Preschool in Portland, said it was invasive to be forced to disclose her private medical information but parents were supportive.
“I think we run one of the best preschools in Portland,” Towles said. “I think the governor should come see my preschool before he makes any rash decisions like that.”
Towles said she uses medical marijuana in lieu of pharmaceuticals, only after hours, to relieve pain and muscle spasms from fibromyalgia. She said the drug is locked in an area the children can't access.
Shanna Aldis, owner of Precious Little Lambs in Salem, said she uses a cream infused with medical marijuana to treat pain in her back and feet. She doesn't smoke the drug, and it doesn't interfere with her ability to take care of the children, she said.
“It's just a cream, it doesn't affect your mind or anything like that,” Aldis said.
The other two child-care centers whose owners had medical marijuana cards were identified as Nancy's Play Care and Tammi's Day Care. Their owners could not immediately be reached for comment.
Another four child-care centers had disclosed that someone who lives in the home — but not the owner of the child-care license — had a medical marijuana card. The state did not disclose those centers.