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Saving a Town with Cannabis

How a dusty Oregon border town got its mojo back, and (presumably) doubled its city budget

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The Associated Press and the Idaho Statesman, which I believe are a part of the deeply feared and dreaded "opposition party" Emperor Pussy Grabber has spoken of, both ran pieces this week that give us some insight to just how much people enjoy cannabis.

The story looks at Huntington, an Oregon town so small I wasn't aware it even existed. (I know... it's exactly the sort of thing a city slicker would say...) Boasting a population of 435 people, like many small towns, it wasn't exactly bursting with commerce and hope, as businesses closed down and people continued to move away.

For nearly a year, city officials debated whether they should allow cannabis sales, finally opting to take a chance. And my goodness, that may have been one of the greatest choices ever made in Huntington. (Which is exactly the sort of thing a cannabis columnist would say...)

Two cannabis dispensaries opened up, and that's when things got really good—mostly because the city is a border town with our slightly more (OK, much more) conservative neighbors to the east—the good people of your own private Idaho. A quick 30-minute drive along I-84 will take you across the Snake River and into the largest border town and population center in the area, Treasure Valley, Idaho. The Valley is home to 660,000 residents, and by all accounts, they really, really enjoy cannabis.

How much, you ask? Enough that there's often a two-and-a-half-hour wait to make a purchase at one of Huntington's two dispensaries. One of Huntington's city council members explains that while they wait, they will often hang out and grab a burger, further adding to the fragile economy.

And it's definitely the potato-loving immigrants making many of the buys. The Statesman noted that at 9am on Feb. 24, 12 of the 14 cars parked in a dispensary lot had Idaho license plates. On a busy day, each dispensary might see 600 customers walk through their doors.

When it's their turn to shop at one of the dispensaries, these canna-tourists are dropping up to $14.40 per gram on flower, along with a variety of edibles, concentrates and other cannabis products.

The sales add up quick. Huntington's deputy recorder says the owner of just one of the two dispensaries estimates it will pay $100,000 to the city in taxes per year. The total of the city's general fund is $200,000 at present—so if the other dispensary is seeing similar revenues, these two cannabis businesses are effectively matching the funds for the entire town. And that doesn't even take into consideration the additional revenue the state will dole out, as 10 percent of the 17 percent tax levied on cannabis sales is allocated for law enforcement initiatives in cities and counties.

And remember, this doesn't include all the money being spent while people wait their two-plus hours to make their purchases, or the other businesses being opened, including a hot dog stand and a head shop, with plans for a new restaurant in the works.

Someone not enjoying this is the Idaho Republican Governor, the honorable Butch Otter. Butchie Boy doesn't like cannabis, not one little bit. On Jan. 30 he sent a letter to the president, saying as much. In part it read: "Among the most pressing concerns facing Idaho, both from the criminal and public health standpoints, is the utter lack of consistency displayed by the Obama administration in enforcement of federal marijuana laws,"... "In that respect, Idaho is a virtual island of compliance, and we are paying the price."

The head of Idaho's Office of Drug Policy has said "legalizing marijuana in Oregon is like illegally polluting rivers or the air in a way that damages neighboring states." (Uh, no. No, it's not like that at all, you should revisit how parallels actually work.)

Cannabis is an economic engine that creates jobs and can stabilize and grow economies. So on your next trip to Idaho, stop in to Huntington, if only to see for yourself how it can revitalize an entire town...


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