Politics & Government

Out-of-state money dominates Ontario’s pro-marijuana campaign

Watch a Utah senator try marijuana for first time ahead of vote

Utah state senator Jim Dabakis tries marijuana for the first time outside a Las Vegas dispensary. Later, in a Facebook video, he said he felt "a little high" but added, "It's not that big a deal." Utah votes Nov. 6 on legalizing medical marijuana.
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Utah state senator Jim Dabakis tries marijuana for the first time outside a Las Vegas dispensary. Later, in a Facebook video, he said he felt "a little high" but added, "It's not that big a deal." Utah votes Nov. 6 on legalizing medical marijuana.

ONTARIO – A marijuana merchant from Spokane has poured more than $130,000 into the effort to repeal Ontario’s ban on recreational sales of cannabis, according to Oregon campaign records.

The measure on the Nov. 6 ballot for Ontario voters would allow state-licensed marijuana dispensaries, recreational marijuana retailers, producers, processors and wholesalers in Ontario.

Tate Kapple operates a multimillion-dollar Spokane marijuana business, Cannabis and Glass. He initially moved earlier this year to put his own measure on Ontario’s ballot but dropped that in favor of a locally organized petition drive.

Kapple is the prime funder for two political action committees promoting repeal.

One is MalheurCAN, which reported that its biggest contribution was an in-kind donation of $30,000 last July from Kappel. He paid for signature gatherers to round up petition signatures for the measure, according to state filings.

The second is Americanna. State election records show that Kapple has funded almost the entire Americanna campaign. He is listed as making an in-kind contribution of $49,250 last month for “literature, brochures, printing, postage” and another $50,000 in-kind contribution earlier this month for “voter contact.”

Americanna was organized by Steve Meland and Jeremy Breton, owners of Hotbox Farms, which operates a marijuana outlet in Huntington. Meland also was chair of Ontario’s advisory committee that recommended zoning and other regulations for marijuana businesses should the city measure pass.

Jahmel Cooke, one of the petitioners with MalheurCAN, said his PAC has no affiliation with Americanna’s activities. He said he feels Americanna tries to run under the guise of his PAC.

“Because everyone knows MalheurCAN as the local effort, but not Americanna,” said Cooke. “Americanna is known as the outsiders’ efforts. But I tried to make this local.”

Contacted Monday, Meland declined to comment.

MalheurCAN listed only two local cash donors. Dave Eyler, of Vale, donated $200, and Tower House Coffee, of Ontario, contributed $570.

“I think one of the biggest issues is how marijuana is gonna affect the community in Ontario,” Eyler said. “I think part of our education is that marijuana is not something to be feared or to cause mayhem. But I think, at this point, the community is just waiting to see if it pans out.”

Opposing the marijuana measure is No Pot Ontario, a political action committee that has raised $11,255 from 22 local donors, according to campaign finance records.

Among its major Ontario donors listed are Reed Dame, chairman of Woodgrain Millwork of Fruitland, $3,000; Debbie DeLong, former Malheur County clerk, $2,000; Dennis Peterson, of Carter Farms, $2,000; and Doris Lindley, $1,000.

“Marijuana is a big business – they’re on the New York Stock Exchange. We have big money trying to buy our town,” said John Kirby, owner of Kinney Brothers and Keele True Value Hardware and a co-director of No Pot Ontario. “So, we have locals lining up to give their money to try prevent that from happening.”

This story has been condensed from the original. Read the original in the Malheur Enterprise. Kristine de Leon: news@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.
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