Commission to consider retail pot use permit
September 12, 2017
The Sweet Home Planning Commission will hear a request by a marijuana retailer for a conditional use permit to operate in Sweet Home.
Commissioners will consider the permit during their monthly meeting set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in the City Council chamber inside the City Hall Annex, behind City Hall, 1140 12th Ave.
The applicant, Modern Forest, opened in March in downtown Lebanon, at 630 S. Main St. It is owned and operated by Sven and Amber Roberts of Lebanon and Amber’s parents, Charles and Laura Troxell. The Troxells will operate the shop in Sweet Home if permits are approved.
“We already serve a tremendous amount of Sweet Home residents in our Lebanon store,” said Sven Roberts. “To hear that many people coming and saying they’re from Sweet Home, it just made a lot of sense to expand in that area.”
Sweet Home currently has a medical marijuana store, Going Green, 925 Main St. That business is awaiting inspection by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to convert to retail marijuana sales.
Modern Forest proposes to open a shop at 150 Main St., the two-story Econo Wash building at the intersection with Pleasant Valley Road. Silver Lining Vape Shop, which is not related to Modern Forest, is located on the same property, west of the vacant Econo Wash building.
Roberts said that Modern Forest is willing to take all steps necessary to maintain a safe and positive business operation and adopt policies to meet city ordinances and requirements.
“We strive to overcome any negative perceptions, impact and effect on the people we serve as well as the community we operate within,” Roberts said in the application. “Beyond our commitment to improve our presence, we are also committed to community involvement and providing a positive impact on our community.”
The building is currently vacant, Robert said. Modern Forest plans to remodel and landscape the property, finishing it with a 1,231 square foot retail showroom. The remaining 1,645 square feet will provide space for an office, a break room, storage and baking.
He said the building would not be wildly painted with large pot leaves or anything like that. The owners would like to create an upscale exterior landscape and upgrade the building to a “boutique” style.
The store will sell raw marijuana, edible marijuana, extracts, tinctures and topical marijuana. The shop will operate from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in compliance with OLCC guidelines. Fresh-baked marijuana products will be made in-house with cannabis butter purchased from an OLCC-approved vendor.
Signs will not use the words “marijuana” or “cannabis,” and marketing will be word of mouth to maintain a lower level of visual presence, due to potential perceived stigma, Roberts said. The building will have filtered ventilation to eliminate marijuana odor.
“The store in Lebanon first opened to opposition from neighboring business owners,” Roberts said. “This opposition has changed into a truly positive acceptance through various efforts to improve upon the community.”
Modern Forest has instituted a “Downtown Shopper” discount program, he said.
“Any customer that produces a receipt showing that they made a purchase in any downtown Lebanon business that day receives a 10-percent discount in our store.”
The program has caused at least 20 people per day to make purchases in other downtown stores before going to Modern Forest, Roberts said. “In most cases, when asked, that customer did not intend on shopping downtown otherwise.
“The neighboring business who initially expressed an objection to our presence now openly state that they are very happy to have our store as neighbors.”
Their first concerns were about the type of people the store would attract, and that quickly dissolved, Roberts said. The average customer is 36 years old and spends $43 per transaction, much different from the stereotype.
“Since no products are consumed on site,” Roberts said. “Our store has a similar feel to a popular fast service coffee shop.”
Roberts said Modern Forest has participated in a variety of activities, including a diaper drive, canned food drives, promoting education and opiate addiction support.
“We feel that our impact is felt in ways that relate to our industry as well as to anyone in need regardless of their position on marijuana consumption,” Roberts said. “It is often surprising to hear the customer stories of opiate problems and the positive use of marijuana products to relieve the need and desire to rely upon opiates and many times, the abuse of opiates.”
Those reports come from customers of all occupations, he said.
Another positive impact is the actual medical use by customers who do no possess a medical card and who have never considered marijuana products.
“We now have a customer that was adamantly opposed to marijuana products that, through the persistence of his daughter, tried our marijuana product is now experiencing positive results in a battle with cancer where there was no traditional medical solution or hope just two months ago,” Roberts said.
If the Sweet Home Planning Commission approves the conditional use permit, Roberts told The New Era, it would probably be four to six months before the shop can open as it goes through the OLCC approval process.
As an existing OLCC-approved entity, Modern Forest should be able to skip a couple of steps, like background checks, in that process, Roberts said.
“If there’s anything we can emphasize, we want to become a positive contributor to the community,” Roberts said.
For more information about the proposed conditional use permit and the Planning Commission meeting, call the planning office at (541) 367-8113 or stop by City Hall, 1140 12th Ave.