These days, a majority of people tend to think that cannabis legalization is inevitable and I understand why that seems like the case. However, for those of us that have been in the political fight for a decade or two, especially getting our start in a conservative state, we know that ending prohibition is battle that takes many twists and turns. The “inevitability” of legalization is only here because of the giants whose shoulders we stand upon, those that were willing to take risks before there was majority support. Those that were willing to hear nasty comments from prohibitionists while gathering signatures and risk defeat at the ballot box, knowing that the fight for freedom was worth it and that, even in defeat, there are victories to build upon. While folks around the nation may view Oregon has a cannabis utopia, those that live here know that the fight for freedom and equality still goes on.
In Sherwood, Oregon, the cannabis community finally prevailed in a fight to legalize the regulated sale of cannabis to all adults over the age of 21. Following the passage of of the Measure 91 legalization initiative in 2014, localities were allowed to prohibit retail sales. Sherwood advocates placed measures on the local ballot in 2016, 2017, and again in 2020. The third time’s the charm. In 2016, 44% of voters supported legal sales, while support dipped to 38% in 2017. Undeterred, hardworking activists won in 2020 with 54%. The work was spearheaded by Sheri Ralston, owner of Western Oregon dispensary, who had a an important ally on the city council, as the Regal Courier reported:
“My husband got cancer and marijuana has always been a part of my life and I believed in it, much over alcohol, and so it was just an easy step for me to move in to,” said Ralston, noting that marijuana sales is a challenging business but fun at the same time.
One of those who advocated for the passage of the Sherwood measure was Sean Garland, a member of the Sherwood City Council, something she believes was a plus. Another councilor, Renee Brouse, did not endorse the measure, but she said in November that she was impressed with Ralston’s work in marketing the recreational marijuana measure and finding support for it.
While the COVID-19 pandemic meant a drop in sales for many retailers last year, Ralston said her businesses reported a solid year.
“We saw an untick of new customers and a fair amount of those new customers were looking for products for stress, sleep and anxiety, rather than for recreational use,” Ralston said. “The new customer is more apt to move into an edible product rather than a smokable product.
While Sherwood’s plight won’t make the national headlines, the work of local activists is where the tough work is done. A sincere thanks to everyone putting in the hard work in their local communities. As we work to end prohibition, please remember to support the small businesses like Western Oregon Dispensary in Sherwood and Kind Leaf in Pendleton that are providing cannabis, jobs, and revenue for their neighbors.