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Derik Drake, left, watches as Kevin McAllisters signs a petition to repeal Ordinance 3228, a city law that prevents new medical marijuana dispensaries from opening, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

LA GRANDE — For weeks on end, petitioners stationed themselves with neon signs at local establishments around La Grande.

Derik Drake, a medical marijuana farmer from Nyssa, organized a petition to partially repeal Ordinance 3228 banning marijuana farming and distribution in La Grande. Needing 1,331 signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot, Drake and his team gathered 1,372 signatures by the deadline on Monday, July 26.

However, due to a sizeable portion of the signatures coming from unregistered voters and non-La Grande residents, the petition came up well short of the required total needed to make the ballot.

“It was a few weeks of volunteering in the hot, smoky outdoors, but we had a blast meeting and engaging with the community,” Drake said.

Although Drake gained enough signatures, the county clerk’s office looked the results over carefully in order to approve the validity. The signatures must be from La Grande residents and any discrepancy or repeated signature can alter the official total. Through the first 414 signatures reviewed, nearly two thirds of those individuals were turned down since they were not registered to vote or residents of La Grande.

“We knew then that they weren’t going to make it,” said Union County Clerk Robin Church.

After inspecting the first 414 signatures, the county was able to determine that Drake would not have enough signatures needed to make the ballot, even if all the remaining signatures were valid.

The petitioners frequented Safeway on Adams Avenue and Walmart on Island Avenue, as well as local events like Crazy Days and the La Grande Farmers Market. The goal of the petition was to allow Drake to take over as owner of the medicinal marijuana dispensary HWY 30. Ordinance 3228 banned any new dispensaries in 2015, but HWY 30 was grandfathered in and allowed to continue operations.

Looking to take over as the new owner at the same location, Drake would technically be opening a new dispensary by legal terms. The partial repeal would allow Drake to take over operations at the HWY 30 location and sell medicinal marijuana in La Grande.

Drake remains in the court of appeals attempting to overcome the legal obstacles, while his lawyers are attempting to negotiate with the city of La Grande.

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