Petition to Put Legalized Cannabis on Ballot in Hermiston Falls Short

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Cody Thornton, left, and Ryan Thompson collect signatures in May to put a recreational cannabis measure on Hermiston's November ballot. The effort fell well short of the number needed. (NEONOW file photo)

A lead petitioner got more than enough signatures to trigger an election to reconsider legalizing cannabis sales in Hermiston, where it remains banned. But most of the signatures did not belong to Hermiston voters.

The Umatilla County Elections Division published a June 26 report showing the petition did not have nearly enough valid signatures to move forward. The report states that more than 80% of the rejected signatures either did not belong to registered voters or were from voters who lived outside Hermiston.

Hermiston voters banned cannabis sales in 2016, but Portland cannabis entrepreneur Jeremy Archie started gathering signatures to see if voters had changed their minds. Archie needed 1,614 signatures to send the issue to the ballot and he submitted 2,370 in early June. But the elections division reported only 896 signatures were from verified voters.

According to the report, of the 896 rejections, 627 signatures came from people not registered to vote, 580 were from people outside the voting district and 91 signatures did not match. The petition also had seven signers who were underage and therefor not eligible to even sign the petition.

In an interview, Archie said he spent $25,000 on the petitioning effort.

“In the most PG-13 possible fashion I can express it, it sucks,” he said.

Elections division Director Kim Lindell said it’s rare to see an initiative petition with so many invalid signatures.

“The petitioner did not do a good job of training the circulators,” she said.

Archie insisted his campaign trained circulators to ask potential signers if they were voters and lived within city limits. Signing events would quickly draw lines “six, seven deep,” Archie said, but the interest didn’t translate into qualified voters.

Archie has experience bringing retail cannabis to Oregon’s border regions, having owned and operated the Treasure Valley Cannabis dispensary in the lucrative Ontario market and a cannabis farm in Southern Oregon. He sponsored the petition because he wanted to expand his business into Hermiston, which drew his interest because of its proximity to the Tri-Cities. While cannabis also is legal in Washington, Archie said Oregon has price and packaging advantages that attract Washington customers to Eastern Oregon.

Archie faced resistance from local government officials. After hearing testimony opposing cannabis sales from representatives from the local school district and hospital, the Hermiston City Council voted to affirm the ban in the spring and declined to put the issue back on the ballot.

State law means Archie now has to wait until the next general election in November 2026 to try again, Hermiston city officials said. Although he’s frustrated by the long timeline, Archie said he plans on giving it another go in two years.

“There’s a million ways to skin a cat,” he said. “This just didn’t work for us. So it’s back to the drawing board and trying to figure out what other opportunities are next.”

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