Health

A budding business: pot sales open up in Eastern Oregon

 

PENDLETON, Ore. (KVEW-TV) --- Three recreational marijuana shops have been approved in the first three weeks of 2017 within the City of Pendleton.

They will be the first recreational retailers to open in one of Eastern Oregon’s biggest cities.

“Come on this way, this is a reception area,” beckons Brandon Krenzler. He is partner owner of Kind Leaf at 1733 SW Court Avenue. “This is where somebody would be carded to make sure they're 21 and over.”

A polished panel of pine spans the wall behind the reception desk. To it’s right, a door with magnet locks, which only opens to customers who pass through the front.

“We've gone with the blue-stained pine,” Krenzler explains. “That is local to this area.”

Local is the goal. The Pendleton native has spent years working in the marijuana industry, advocating for safe and legal cannabis polices around the Pacific Northwest.

He and two other local men decided to open Kind Leaf together.

“This is Pendleton, Oregon, and there's definitely a certain type of mindset compared to the valley,” Krenzler says. “We're going to stay away from the flashing green crosses and the cannabis leaves. We're going to give a very distinct cannabis boutique feeling.”

According to the city, Pendleton opted for a citywide ban of marijuana sales after Oregon voters approved legal marijuana in 2014.

At the time, city manager Robb Corbett says the Pendleton population was outvoted by voters in the western part of the state. However, in November 2016, the issue was brought up for a citywide vote.

“It was a significant shift, and I was surprised by that,” says Corbett, pointing to the more than 60-percent voter approval of recreational marijuana sales. “The door has been open here in Pendleton, and they're rushing to get in.”

In addition to the three establishments already approved by the city, Corbett says one other is in the works.

The process is lengthy. Shops must pass through city hoops and regulations, then apply for various state licenses with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

“This isn’t some dark and dreary place to sneak in and buy drugs,” comments James English, another partner owner of Kind Leaf.

English is a former Pendleton police officer and Umatilla County sheriff’s deputy. He quit a few years ago to pursue construction, then ran into his new business partners at a city council meeting. The idea for Kind Leaf was born.

“I even asked my mom and dad,” laughs English. “Are you going to look at me like a drug dealer?”

His background in law enforcement helped sway his decision to open up the marijuana boutique. He says during his service with police and deputies, he witnessed bigger damage caused by other drugs.

“Most of the time, I haven't dealt with major violent crimes with strictly marijuana,” says English. “I'm excited start learning more about the plant other than unlawful use and how I can prosecute or tangle somebody up on this plant.”

While Corbett with the city is helping oversee the new recreational pot allowances, he says some in the community expressed doubts.

“There’s a lot of concern for people that it will bring negative social impacts in our city,” he explains. “Time will tell.”

Corbett adds money may have been a big incentive in swaying the public vote in favor of legal sales. As a part of the law, three-percent of revenue will go directly to City of Pendleton services. A steeper 17-percent sales tax goes to the state, which then trickles back down to surrounding communities.