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Campaigning in Creswell

Race on pot ballot measure is heating up
Larry Williams and Lisa Poquette. Photo: Kelly Kenoyer.
Larry Williams and Lisa Poquette. Photo: Kelly Kenoyer.

More than 80 people stood at the intersection of Oregon Avenue and the I-5 exit in Creswell on Monday, Oct. 2, calling on drivers to “Say no to One Gro.” The protesters were referencing an upcoming ballot initiative in the small town — one that has “the friendly city” divided about its future.

If passed, Ballot Initiative 20-280 would allow recreational marijuana dispensaries into Creswell, but those on both sides make arguments unrelated to pot when they argue for or against the measure. 

The town banned marijuana-related businesses within city limits in November, but One Gro, a new weed start-up headed by Eugene attorney Mike Arnold, is pushing for that ban to be lifted.

 “We wrote the bill with the city, like their city attorney and us wrote the bill,” One Gro CEO Dan Isaacson says.

Isaacson says the bill is designed to allow a maximum of three or four dispensaries within city limits. One Gro already owns a coffee shop, NakD Bean, in one of those zones.

Opponents such as Creswellian Lisa Poquette say that One Gro has already staked out the only commercially viable plot in those limited zones, so it would have a de facto monopoly in the town.

 One Gro has offered to donate $105,000 to the city to help pay for 24-hour policing, though estimates for the cost of 24-hour policing differ. “This is a way you can address those problems without cutting services or raising taxes,” Isaacson says.

At previous meetings, Isaacson and Arnold have said they want Creswell to become One Gro’s Cupertino, referencing the town that houses Apple. One Gro, they say, will be a cannabis empire.

Opponents of the measure say One Gro is trying to change the nature of the town, and that the company can’t keep its promises. The business already boasts a pot farm of its own, and Isaacson says they plan to use vertical integration to become that empire.

“He’s promised that we’re going to have more police coverage with them coming in, but in fact it would take a minimum of $160,000 a year to bring in one more deputy into our county,” Poquette says. “There’s not going to be police on the streets 24/7 until there are three or four more deputies.”

Mike Weber of Lane County Mugshots Uncensored, who handles publicity for the opposition campaign, Keep it Creswell, says that “the people of Creswell are basically able to vote in or vote out a business.”

“Does Creswell want Mike Arnold and One Gro in their town?” Weber asks. “The people of Creswell feel like they’re being bought out.”

Another Creswellian who opposes the measure and stood on Oregon Avenue to protest it is Larry Williams. “They’ve come in and said they want this to be a weed empire,” Williams says. “That would change who we are as a culture as ‘the friendly city,’” he says, referencing the town's posted slogan.

During the protest, Isaacson came out of NakD Bean and walked up and down each side of Oregon Avenue, offering water bottles to the protesters holding “Say no to One Gro” signs. One protester jokingly asked if there was THC in the water, and Isaacson replied, “Yes! Just kidding!” 

Williams points out screen shots of previous editions of the One Gro website that claim “One Gro is a Creswell based cannabis business, founded by Creswellians.” He says they’re not actually from Creswell, although founder Mike Arnold owns a farm just outside the city. “There’s only one person I know of that’s a Creswellian” on their board, he says.

Williams says he feels that the leadership of One Gro has disrespected the town and its leadership. Isaacson, on the other hand, suggested in an interview with EW that the leadership of the town is ineffective, and he suggested that he and Creswell city Mayor Dave Strahm could get into dunk tanks and that “everyone that didn’t like one of us could dunk us and the money would go to charity,” Isaacson said.

Williams says, “Mayor Strahm was just voted the small town mayor of Oregon. We’re learning of problems we didn’t even know we had with them coming in.”