It appears that some rural cities in Oregon are eager to benefit from all that legal cannabis has to offer. When recreational cannabis was legalized in Oregon in 2015, it gave municipalities the option to ban it. Quite a few cities in the state chose to do that. But it looks like a few years into the legalization era, they’re changing their tune.
Six cities that had previously banned cannabis, Ontario, Joseph, Klamath Falls, Gates, Sumpter and Clatskanie, voted on Nov. 6 to repeal their bans.
Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls took a hardline stance against Ballot Measure 18-112, which aimed to allow recreational cannabis sales in the city. Sky Lakes donated $8,000 to the opposition campaign. Paul Stewart, Sky Lakes president and CEO, wrote a statement regarding his opposition. “Ballot backers are wrong when they say there are health benefits from inhaling burning organic material,” Stewart wrote. “Our recent prize in the national ‘Culture of Health’ competition recognizes the efforts locally to help people kick the smoking habit. Promoting pot smoking disrespects the prize and all it represents and dishonors everyone working to improve health.”
Apparently, Stewart is unaware of the existence of edibles, vaporizers and the huge body of evidence supporting the medical use of cannabis. Stewart also stated that backers of the repeal are “choosing to ignore the evidence coming out of Washington and Colorado—two states that have had legalized recreational marijuana for longer than Oregon—showing an increased use of marijuana by teenagers.”
This is an interesting conclusion to jump to, considering that a major nationwide survey actually conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that cannabis use decreased among teens in Washington and Colorado following legalization.
Apparently, the voters decided that these concerns were illegitimate because Klamath Falls voters passed the repeal by a 54-46 margin.
So aside from a lack of data supporting cannabis naysayers concerns, what changed voter minds in these cities? Cannabis business experts have an answer, and that answer is money. Donald Morse, director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, gave his thoughts on the repeal and why the voters in these previously opposed rural cities went for it. “I think it’s wonderful they opened up to cannabis,” Morse told CULTURE. “I think they realize that they’re missing out on a lot of tax revenue and that those activities are going on in their communities whether or not they’ve declared it legal. They’re just reacting to what the people want.”
And these cities are wasting no time trying to get started on cashing in on legal cannabis. Within weeks of the election, there were 22 applicants to begin cannabis businesses in Ontario alone. While there won’t be room for all of those businesses in such a tiny town, it’s a promising sign that these cities are ready to benefit from the economic boom that legal cannabis brings. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has a huge backlog of cannabis business license applicants, but these cities will get priority, explained Mark Pettinger, media relations for OLCC.
“I think they realize that they’re missing out on a lot of tax revenue and that those activities are going on in their communities whether or not they’ve declared it legal.”
“We’ve been in contact with the jurisdictions that have recently overturned a marijuana ban,” said Pettinger. “Based on the date when local ordinance changes, we will provide applicants an on-ramp that bypasses the June 2019 pause, which will enable individuals or entities to apply for licenses through the state.”
The June 2019 pause refers to the OLCC’s decision to temporarily stop processing cannabis license applications after June 15.
More and more cities are racing to get in on Oregon’s “Green Rush.” Considering the sorry state of many of Oregon’s rural economies, it seems like common sense that they’d want to allow any industry that will create jobs and tax revenue. With more legal cities, comes the possibility of more positive examples for other cities on the fence about cannabis legalization.