A Beacon of Green for Idaho

The legalization of pot in a tiny Oregon town is followed by more drug seizures in Idaho

In Eastern Oregon, where marijuana dispensaries are scarce, a shop called 420ville sits quietly in the town of Huntington as an oasis for out-of-state customers. 

In the last few years, 420ville has grown into a popular destination and provided a small economic boost for the town of about 440 people, all because it is a 23-mile drive from Huntington to Weiser, the nearest town in Idaho — where selling marijuana remains illegal. 

Candy Howland, the mayor of Huntington, has seen a few problems arise because of the location of the dispensary. Howland says the city had to step up its law enforcement due to the dozens of customers coming from Idaho.

She says the majority of people buying marijuana in Huntington “are Idaho people.”

She adds, “You just show your age and then you buy. It doesn’t matter which license.”

Although Huntington is small and rural, Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said that an increase in traffic and travelers has played a major role in increased work for law enforcement. 

“The sheriff’s department is using more resources because of more traffic,” Shirtcliff says. He says the dispensary’s presence means “there is more of a need for law enforcement.”

Howland and Shirtcliff agree that 420ville has remained compliant with the city’s laws.

“They follow the rules,” Howland says.

In Baker County, each municipality has the authority to decide whether to allow dispensaries. Huntington hosts two of the four total marijuana shops in the county.

Howland, though, has seen pushback from some citizens in Huntington. “Fifty percent want them here and 50 percent don’t,” the mayor says. 

Howland says she has not encountered any issues with law enforcement in Idaho because Huntington is not close enough to the border. 

Idaho State Police Public Information Officer Tim Marsono said the possession of marijuana in Idaho remains illegal. He said, though, that people are still crossing into states bordering Idaho and purchasing cannabis products. In 2017, he said, the Idaho State Police seized nearly 1,400 pounds of marijuana — more than in the previous three years combined.

“The police are aggressively supporting Idaho laws,” Marsono says.

Although 420ville is a popular cannabis shop for Idahoans who live near Eastern Oregon, Marsono says it is difficult to tell which states are more responsible for the increase in marijuana seizures.

“We are just getting more neighboring states legalizing, so there is an overflow across borders,” Marsono said.

Shirtcliff said that he was not a proponent of legalizing marijuana in Baker County because of the risk that more of the drug would find its way into the hands of minors. He says that problem has increased since legalization. 

“The whole legalization issue the dispensaries create is that more marijuana is used and being used by kids,” Shirtcliff says. “I think overall it is still going to hurt society.”

420ville declined to comment for the story. 

“Boss said no,” a worker said. “Every time we did an interview our words would get twisted and they would not say what we say. So, no.” ■

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