Max Denning

After less than two weeks of collecting signatures, the citizen-led ballot initiative to let voters decide if the sale of recreational marijuana should be banned has delivered the signatures to the City of La Grande. While the group collected 1,200 signatures, with little margin of error for the verification process, organizers said they would be surprised if the initiative went through.

David Moyal, chief petitioner, said he would be surprised if the group got all 1,200 signatures verified.

“It will be a complete miracle if we get it. It’s already a miracle that we got close to 1,200,” Moyal said prior to his count being completed.

The county clerk’s office has 15 days to verify the signatures on the petition as registered voters in La Grande. If the signatures are verified and they reach the necessary 1,200, the initiative then goes to city council, which then has three options, Angelika Brooks, city recorder, said. The La Grande City Council could accept the initiative and make it an ordinance, allowing the sale of recreational marijuana in the city. They could also put the repeal on the ballot in November for La Grande citizens to vote on or they could put an opposing measure on the ballot, Brooks said.

“Most likely it would go on the ballot and citizens would vote on it,” she said.

Recreational marijuana was made legal in Oregon in 2014, but in counties where more than 55 percent of voters voted against legalization, cities were able to ban the sale of recreational marijuana. The La Grande City Council banned recreational marijuana shops within city limits. This April, however, the city council revisited the issue and voted 5-2 in support of taking steps toward letting citizens vote on whether to repeal the ban.

In May, the council held the first formal reading of the measure.

At the June city council meeting, the second reading of the measure was held, and more opponents to repealing the ban attended the meeting.

After testimony by the repeal’s opponents, the council voted 6-1 to leave the ordinance as is, with councilor Nicole Howard being the single vote against.

This led Moyal and Christopher Jennings to co-sponsor the petition effort to get the repeal on the ballot in November.

Approximately 18 volunteers circulated the petition. They also had petitions inside a few local businesses including Highway 30 Cannabis, Desires LLC and Eagle Cap Dispensary.

Moyal said he was happy with the results of the petition efforts, no matter the outcome.

“I am over the moon,” Moyal said, noting the petition was a grassroots movement.

Even if the ballot initiative comes up short of 1,200 signatures, the effort isn’t over.

“Whether we succeeded or not, it’s a good thing,” Moyal said. “And if we failed, we’ll be back in two years.”

Contact Max Denning at 541-963-3161 or mdenning@lagrandeobserver.com .

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