More than four years after voters in Halfway decided by a narrow margin that they did not want a marijuana dispensary in their town in eastern Baker County, the topic has returned to their ballots.
The 257 registered voters in Halfway will decide in the May 18 election whether to allow not only dispensaries but other marijuana-related businesses, including growers, producers and processors.
In November 2016, Halfway voters, by a margin of about 10 votes, agreed to ban marijuana dispensaries.
Amy Olley of Halfway is one of the chief petitioners for Measure 1-107, along with Dianna and Josh Welch.
Olley said she and her husband, Derek, would like to open a marijuana dispensary in Halfway, which is about 55 miles east of Baker City.
The couple initially proposed to open a dispensary in Halfway in 2016, prior to voters banning such businesses.
Amy Olley, 40, said that after the 2016 vote, she waited to pursue the matter until her three children were school age.
“I’m a mom, and family came first for me,” Olley said.
Olley, who moved to Halfway about six years ago, said she and her husband became interested in cannabis after her husband, who played football at Boise State University from 1998 to 2001, had multiple surgeries for injuries he sustained while playing football.
He had a bad experience with prescription painkillers following one surgery, and Amy Olley said the couple became convinced of marijuana’s therapeutic benefits.
She said they moved to Oregon in part because marijuana is legal for personal use in the state, while it remains illegal in Idaho.
“I think it’s a fair option for people to have,” she said. “It’s about helping people have a better quality of life without relying on chemicals. It’s a medicine, not a drug.”
Olley said that in addition to making marijuana more readily available to local residents — the nearest dispensaries are in Huntington and Sumpter; marijuana businesses are banned in Baker City — she wants to create jobs and benefit the local economy as well as enrich the Halfway city coffers.
Olley pointed out that in 2016, Halfway voters approved a 3% city tax on marijuana sales. However, because voters also decided to ban marijuana businesses, the tax was a moot point, and Halfway City Recorder/Manager Salli Hysell said she’s checking with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office to find out whether, should a marijuana dispensary open in the city, the 3% city tax could be collected, or whether voters would have to approve a new version of the tax.
Olley contends that Halfway is “missing out” on potential tax revenue by prohibiting dispensaries. She also believes that visitors would pay much of the taxes.
“We are a tourist town,” Olley said. “These are going to be the people that support the store.”
That potential for tourists to congregate in downtown Halfway is one of the reasons Denise Cairns, a former Halfway City Council member, opposes Measure 1-107.
Cairns is a director with the political action committee Committee Against Measure 1-107 ALL Marijuana Businesses in Halfway City Limits, which was formed on April 2, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division.
Cairns said the medical benefits of marijuana “is not an issue” in the opposition campaign to Measure 1-107.
Rather, Cairns said she is concerned about how marijuana businesses could affect Halfway and the Pine Valley.
She pointed out that the measure would allow not only dispensaries, but all other types of marijuana businesses such as grow operations and processors, and with no limit on the number of businesses.
“That is a real major concern to us,” Cairns said. “We’re going to have traffic. This is a risk, and we’re not willing to take that risk as to how it’s going to change our town.”