Photo by DJ Davis | hotboxfarms.com
After Hotbox Farms co-owners Steven Meland and Jeremy Breton opened the doors to their dispensary in 2019 in Ontario, Ore., customer lines continued to form, as they did for other dispensaries in town.
It was 5 a.m. when he heard somebody banging on his window from the darkness outside.
Dan Cummings, the community development director in Ontario, Ore., a city of roughly 11,000 people in the eastern part of the state, had spent some early mornings at his office in the days leading up to that clatter.
Earlier that week, in November 2018, Ontario voters overturned the city’s ban on cannabis sales, with 56.8% of 3,383 balloters showing their support for a local measure that would impose a 3% tax on adult-use retail.
Four years earlier, when Oregonians approved Measure 91 to legalize cannabis cultivation and adult-use statewide during the 2014 general election, residents in Malheur County, where Ontario is located, were on the other side, voting 68.3% against that measure. Under the state law, counties and cities that opposed the measure by at least 60% had the option to outlaw cannabis legalization in their municipalities. The Ontario City Council did just that when its members voted to prohibit cannabis retail in 2015.
But when a citizen-led petition gathered enough signatures to get a new pro-cannabis retail measure added to the Ontario ballot in 2018, Cummings said he started writing community development codes ahead of time in case voters lifted the ban. A couple statutes he wanted to establish included a licensing and permit program for dispensaries as well as 1,000-foot buffer zones between fellow retailers and between a retailer and schools, city parks and residential areas. In addition, potential dispensary owners had to show proof they owned property that met those buffer-zone parameters before