A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany pot ban: One side campaigns

Written October 6th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
Traffic waits for a green light at the Santiam-Pacific junction, next to campaign sign put up by two council members.

Traffic waits for a green light at the Santiam-Pacific junction, next to a somewhat enigmatic campaign sign.

To understand the big campaign signs put up by two Albany City Council members, it helps to know what “22-156” means. For those who don’t, the explanation is coming up.

“22-156” is the Linn County (22nd on the list of Oregon counties) designation of Albany’s ballot measure to continue the ban on various kinds of recreational marijuana businesses. The ban has been in effect for the past year, but state law required the council to put it on the ballot in the 2016 general election, which will end on Nov. 8. (The measure has the same number in the Benton County part of the city.)

“Keep Albany Open for Business” by voting no, as the signs urge, sounds shaky on the facts. Businesses covered by the ban — producing, processing, wholesaling and retailing marijuana for recreational use — are not open in Albany because, after all, they are banned. So there is nothing to “keep open.” Instead, defeating the measure would allow such businesses to start up in the very few places where zoning allows if they become licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Medical marijuana dispensaries, of which Albany has a few, are not covered by the ban or the ballot measure.

The signs are the work of Councilmen Ray Kopczynski and Dick Olsen, who had them made and put them up. Both men have opposed the efforts by at least three other councilors and the mayor to restrict marijuana stores.

Olsen and Kopczynski are listed as directors of “Keep Albany Open for Business,” the campaign committee opposing the Albany ballot measure. It’s the only committee registered with the state Elections Division in connection with this measure, which may explain why I haven’t seen anything that looked like campaigning in favor of the ban. (For the mayor’s explanation see below.)

So far the “Keep Open” committee has been funded entirely by cash contributions of $1,000 from Kopczynski, $150 from High Tides Pipes & Tobacco, and an eye-catching $25,000 from The Genetic Locker Inc., a medical and recreational marijuana store in Boulder, Colo. (It’s eye-catching all right, but it didn’t catch my eye until the Democrat-Herald reported on it this week.)

On Sept. 6, the committee’s campaign finance report showed it had about $5,500 left. Most of its cash had gone to two firms on K Street in the District of Columbia, a street famous for housing Washington lobbyists; a company in Brooklyn, N.Y., for design services; and a firm in Portland. Albany’s Pride Printing was paid about $3,000, so that print job did indeed help support Albany business.

Why the out-of-town contributions and expenditures? The Albany committee’s treasurer is Jef A. Green of Portland, who also was treasurer of the Measure 91 campaign in 2014, which legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon and was heavily financed from out of state. The Boulder marijuana shop contributed $7,500 to the 2014 state campaign.

In an email, Kopczynski explained: “Earlier this summer, I was starting the process to set up a PAC and had a couple of ‘pizza’ meetings with folks to get started. One of the folks asked if I would be averse to having out-of-state money contribute to it. (At the time I had no information indicating there would be no formal group supporting the ballot measure.) I said I would be very happy to have contributions, knowing full well the push back I would get… As far as my personal money goes (and there will be more showing up as ‘in kind’), I’ve always believed that if I wasn’t willing to put my own name and money behind the issue, I didn’t believe in it strongly enough.”

What about the bit about keeping Albany business open? “Yes,” the councilor wrote, “I do believe we are kicking jobs, business, and taxes to Corvallis.” (hh)

A booth at the Albany business exposition in September. Councilor Ray Kopczynski is the one with big whiskers.

A booth at the Albany business exposition in September. Councilor Ray Kopczynski is the one with the biggest whiskers.

I asked Mayor Sharon Konopa about any campaign in favor of the continued ban. Her emailed reply:

“No, there isn’t one. I was hoping with the voters getting the opportunity for a second look they could decide without a campaign influencing their vote. Now we have out of state money paying for a misleading campaign to influence the voters to mark no on their ballot. Disappointing to me, because now I will never know the true views of Albany voters. Many voters thought M91 denied someone their medicine and voted yes for the measure. Now this campaign is using the same message to sway votes, yet we have four dispensaries for medical currently. Also, their message that Albany is not open for business is misleading. How does that look to people visiting our community?”

16 responses to “Albany pot ban: One side campaigns”

  1. Curtis weiland says:

    I believe the ban also shut down medical sales. Hence the sign saying “keep Albany open for business”.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      The ban did not, & will not affect existing dispensaries that continue as such. MY issue is that it already has cost jobs and driven business to Corvallis. In addition, we have already kissed off tax revenue because of the ban.

      Going forward, and based on the proposals already on the table (if they pass), it will be even much-more more detrimental and damaging to business due to intentionally trying eliminate very reasonable opportunities for sales, production, etc. of cannabis…

      • Justin says:

        Thank you. There is absolutely no reason we should be sending tax revenue to Corvallis. People are going to smoke regardless — so why not benefit the city?

  2. hj.anony1 says:

    Think of all the good uses for that sin tax revenue that Albany & Linn Co. are fixated on not collecting. Roads, schools, public safety, …list goes on and on and the horse is still dead. Truly a head scratcher!

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    Eventually, they will get a mayor/council that isn’t so short sighted.
    In the meantime, hear that “sucking sound” going to Corvallis.

    Why not occupy a few empty store fronts in Albany. The out of state owners love it.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “…a few empty store fronts…”

      Admirable & very common sense idea – which is DOA to several members of council. It * should* be treated absolutely NO different than any business dealing with alcohol IMO…

  4. ron says:

    voting yes because it has medical usage it help extend my grandmothers

    • Hasso Hering says:

      “ron” seems to be confused. “Yes” votes to extend the ban of recreational marijuana businesses. And again, medical use is not covered by this measure. (hh)

  5. hj.anony1 says:

    Found myself in Corvallis this late afternoon. Albeit not for the subject matter of this comment. One establishment right on the main 9th street drag was packed with cars. Some double parked. A long line of people stretching out the door waiting their turn to enter. Yes, it was a pot store.

    Albany sure is missing out and possibly I am too given the popularity of this product on a Friday night.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      We *know* many of those folks come from Albany too. And guess what? They do additional shopping while they’re there too. But “we” sure don’t want them driving stoned do we — so we force them to drive to & from Corvallis to get cannabis in well-lit, well regulated businesses. Yup – that really does make a lot of sense. You betcha.

  6. Jackson Cauter says:

    The mayor betrayed her constituency and the very basis for democratic rule when she broke the City Council tie with her vote, effectively banning recreational sales. Simply put, when the mayor had the opportunity to demonstrate her alleged Progressive bona fides, she failed and she failed to uphold the will of the people.

    The result of the mayor’s inexplicable denial of a majority of Albany voters? Tax dollars flee the city, moving to Corvallis. Job creation in Albany is stifled as a result of the vote, which was also supported by Mr. Kellum, a barely-disguised reactionary who, with reckless impunity, substitutes his judgement for the judgement of those he claims to represent.

    Lastly, even though Albany has already legalized recreational cannabis use when voters passed Measure 91, now the taxpayers of Albany have to once again fund the costs of re-voting, truly a waste of time and energy.

  7. Ray Kopczynski says:

    To help set the stage for folks not fully in tune; here’s a quick 4-minute background to hear two diametrically opposing viewpoints on this issue…from our recent City Council meeting:

    http://bit.ly/2dT5KIF It starts at 1:54. You definitely know where both councilor Kellum & I stand.

    • hj.anony1 says:

      Thanks Mr. K. A couple of thoughts….at 1:51:26 (added the seconds) it is interested to hear/see the mayor surprise that personal cannabis plants can be grow outside. A bit of a laugh out loud moment.

      Secondly, the Albany Museum should be in contact with you about the large sign. Surely they would like to preserve it for a future display featuring Albany’s fight against this plant created by the higher power.

  8. Ray Kopczynski says:

    It would save Dick & me the trouble of trashing it after the election. :-)

  9. Dick Olsen says:

    If you want reasonable rules on POT, vote for the candidates who believe pot should be regulated in the same way and sold in the same areas as alchol and tobacco. Vote for Terry Virnig in Ward I and Tre Mork in Ward III.


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