PHOENIX, Ore. – A team of volunteers breaks for a brief huddle over a map before hitting the streets. The group is one of several scouring the city for signatures they say will help them bring dispensaries back from the dead.
“We’re saying we don’t want to stop safe access to medical marijuana patients on the vote of four councilors,” said OMMP patient and petitioner Tere Knight.
On Saturday morning, volunteers and patients gathered next door to The Greenery – the business they hoped would become the city’s first dispensary. Now that business has been made temporarily illegal, leading them instead to seek a referendum.
And they say they’re the first community in the state to do so.
“All the towns that have passed referendums in the state of Oregon… there’s never been a referendum on a moratorium,” said Chief Petitioner Steve Schulman. “People have just sat back and said, ‘okay, we’ll take it.’”
In order for it to work, the group will need a tenth of city’s registered voters to get on board — roughly 260 people. If those signatures pass inspection, the issue goes directly to voters in September.
They say it’s an opportunity to reverse their fate and send a statewide message in the process.
“It will tell other communities that are in the process of passing an ordinance, ‘hey, you can do this too,’” said Schulman.
It’s a message that, in the meantime, could allow The Greenery to stay open. According to state election manuals, the referendum would prevent the moratorium from going into effect until the vote is held, meaning the battle for city’s marijuana future could go on hold until what petitioners call the “silent majority” weighs in.
“It’s their city, it’s their vote,” said Knight.