Lostine resident Getty Pollard became the first entrepreneur who can legally sell recreational marijuana in Joseph — or Wallowa County for that matter.
Pollard, who already owns a dispensary in The Dalles, applied for a conditional use permit under MThrive Organics LLC at 600 N. Main St. in Joseph, the former location of East Fork Brewing.
Fewer than two dozen people attended the milestone Joseph City Council meeting on May 15. City voters in the November 2018 general election narrowly approved recreational dispensaries.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission had approved the location, but members of the audience were dismayed by its proximity to Wallowology, the Josephy Center and two day care centers that some considered inside the state’s 1,000-foot rule of prohibiting dispensaries from locating where children congregate.
City recorder Belinda Buswell said that after consultation with the OLCC, none of the facilities were licensed by the state in a child attending capacity and did not qualify. She added that at the time, Wallowology had let its lease lapse, so it did not qualify for that reason.
Michelle Kramer argued that Wallowology had never let its lease lapse, but Buswell said she had paperwork that indicated otherwise. The argument started to escalate until Mayor Teresa Sajonia silenced it with insistent gavel pounding. She went on to explain that the OLCC had investigated the matter thoroughly and approved the application.
The discussion raised the ire of Adam Saxton, who said, “So the state says it’s not a school, but everybody in town knows that kids are there all day long? Because we all see it, know it ...?”
“We have to go by the state,” Sajonia said. She added that legally, the only thing the city could do is approve the dispensary because the applicant had met all the state and city legal guidelines. Following a few more minutes of discussion, Sajonia motioned that the city approve the application with minor stipulations and council member Patti Bufford seconded the motion, which carried, 4-2 with Pearl Sturm and Lisa Collier voting against.
Before the vote, Pollard, a 13-year Wallowa County resident, gave a brief history of his foray into the cannabis business in The Dalles and stated he wanted a business closer to his home.
“There’s been a lot of work put into it, and we hope to run a good, professional business out of that building,” he said. Pollard added he would sell his own product at the establishment as well as that from other producers.
The applicant said he had no problems with break-ins or disapproving neighbors at his business in The Dalles. He stated that he worked closely with law enforcement, particularly in supplying surveillance footage of the area filmed by his security cameras and added his business is focused on teaching people to use their product responsibly.
“Anyone is free to call me anytime and ask me questions,” he said. “I’m in the phone book.”
In response to questions from councilor Marty Hamilton, Pollard assured attendees that no use of his product in any manner on his premises is legal. He also said IDs are checked as soon as a customer enters as no one under the age of 21 is allowed inside the business. He added that customers tend to stay in the business from 2-5 minutes and parking should not be an issue.
In response to a Hamilton question about advertising signage, Pollard replied that he planned to have two signs: One to replace the East Fork sign and a 2-by-2-foot sign on the front of the business. He also said he does his advertising online.
Pollard also listed the products most likely to be sold from the business. These include “bulk flower,” intended for smoking, and extracts, edibles, topicals and medicinals, including smoking medicinals. He noted the medicinal marijuana is generally stronger than its recreational counterpart.
Sturm asked Pollard how he planned to control customers who might be purchasing product for minors.
“I can’t control anybody outside the building,” he replied. “So if someone walks in the building, I have to card them and make sure they’re 21. After they walk out of the building, and wherever they go — I’m not in control of that.” He also noted liquor stores can have the same problem.
Collier asked if Pollard’s store in The Dalles heard complaints from neighbors about undesirable elements in the area after he opened the store. Pollard said he hadn’t heard complaints and had a good rapport with his neighbors.
“Marijuana’s in Oregon, and it’s always been in Oregon, so I don’t know that we’re introducing marijuana to a location or to a spot,” he said. “We’re changing it from an unregulated to a regulated market.”
Sajonia told the audience that Joseph voters approved the implementation of marijuana dispensaries and that the city issued conditional use permit for a dispensary because Pollard’s application complied with the city’s regulations regarding dispensaries. She added the city staff did extensive research into the matter as did Pollard. She followed by asking for testimony from those in favor of dispensaries.
Joseph citizen Dan Deboie reminded the audience the city had voted for dispensaries and added that as a volunteer bus driver, he estimated that 60-70 percent of the veterans he drove to VA hospitals and appointments said they either do or have smoked marijuana. Scott Lanier said he had entered a dispensary in Portland and found security to be as rigorous as Pollard said.
“You need businesses here, and you need employees here,” he said. One other person testified in the same vein.
In response to a question by audience member Evelyn Swart about regulation, Sajonia replied the OLCC regulated marijuana sales, and the sheriff’s department would also help. Pollard said he’d never had compliance infractions.
“The regulation of this product is insane,” he said.
Barb Sexton said she wasn’t necessarily opposed and understood of the benefits of medicinal marijuana. However, she thought the city should prohibit the use of a marijuana leaf on the store sign as it could be seen from Main Street.
The council went into discussion at that point and Sajonia suggested the council vote to have Wallowology and the dispensary create diagonal parking spaces to help alleviate that problem and she noted the city cannot prohibit a leaf on a marijuana sign at this time because city ordinances did not cover it.
Sajonia read a letter from Jerry Crandall into the record. Crandall said that he had lived behind the dispensary area for 11 years and expressed concern about the effect on his property values. He noted that the city needed tourist revenue, the dispensary and the several failed businesses before it had contributed to parking problems in the area that included impeding traffic and obstructing property access. Other problems cited included trespassing, littering, public urination, vomiting and loud arguments and music.
Crandall also doubted marijuana revenue would cover such costs as policing the business. He added he could get behind non-THC medicinal products.