Supporters scramble to lift county pot ban

VALE – New activists have stepped into an expanding effort to lift the ban on recreational marijuana sales in Malheur County.

Ontario City Recorder Tori Barnett confirmed June 27 that Tate Kapple, a Spokane marijuana entrepreneur, pulled his ballot petition to legalize retail marijuana sales in Ontario. Barnett said he pulled the petition June 22. Kapple had not collected signatures.

Barnett said Portland resident Jeremy Archie has filed a new ballot measure to lift the city’s ban and the Malheur County clerk has approved a prospective petition by county resident Stormy Ray to revoke the county’s embargo on legal pot sales.

The Malheur County Court June 27 set in motion the process to create a county rule that would impose a sales tax on marijuana sales. The county has scheduled hearings on the matter for July 18 and Aug. 8.

Meanwhile, a third pot petition by Ontario residents Jahmel Cooke and Byron Shock and Vale resident Dave Eyler is nearly ready for signatures.

Archie said last week Ontario attracted him because of its “small-town feel.”

“I feel like it is a spot that is geared more toward small business. It is a little bit more of an old-fashioned community. I think there is room to fit in,” said Archie.

Archie, who used to sell real estate in the Seattle area and now operates a consulting business, said he began seriously contemplating opening a retail marijuana business more than four years ago.

He wasn’t sure, though, where he wanted to open.

A trip to Huntington last summer convinced him Ontario would be a good place.

“I watched for three hours in Huntington one day and tallied how many cars there were from Idaho. The point is come from wherever they may, they are purchasing in the state of Oregon and Ontario should benefit rather than opting out,” said Archie.

Ray said she believes it is time for voters to decide whether legal marijuana sales are the right thing for the county.

“People have enough awareness and exposure to have the right to make their own decision,” said Ray. Ray lives just outside of Ontario and operates a medical marijuana help line.

The proposed petitions from Ray and Archie are now awaiting a ballot title and a summary before they can gather signatures to refer the measures to voters.

The Malheur County District Attorney’s office creates the ballot title and summary for Ray. Ontario City Attorney Larry Sullivan will create a ballot title for Archie’s proposal.

Ray’s petition includes only the unincorporated areas of the county, not the individual cities.

Barnett said Cooke, Shock and Eyler still need to submit more paperwork before they can collect signatures.

Barnett said the trio need to prove they have established a campaign account and created a statement of organization.

Once they complete those steps they can collect signatures, said Barnett.

In 2014, voters statewide approved a measure legalizing marijuana and opening the door for dispensaries.

Voters in Malheur County, however, opposed the measure by nearly 70 percent.

In Ontario, the vote was 1,588-911 against marijuana sales.

By law, counties and cities could continue prohibiting commercial sales of marijuana if at least 60 percent of county voters said no to the state measure.

A year after the state vote, the Ontario council voted to ban dispensaries.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.