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Pushing for recreational marijuana

Rows of cannabis plants growing at A Better Way Medicinal Alternatives, the only medical marijuana shop in Klamath Falls, Monday, March 12. Klamath Falls and Klamath County currently have bans placed on recreational cannabis products.

A political action committee with strong ties to local business and health interests has raised more than $10,000 against the campaign to legalize recreational cannabis sales in Klamath Falls.

The PAC, dubbed Klamath Public Safety, has raised $10,770 in cash contributions through 27 transactions in 2018, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s campaign finance database. In contrast, the initiative petition group has raised $4,311.72 through 20 transactions, less than half of what the anti-pot sales PAC has reached.

The issue comes to a head after several heated discussions at local city council and school board meetings, which followed more than 1,800 signatures gathered locally to overturn recreational pot sales bans in the city of Klamath Falls in the upcoming election.

Advocates in favor of retail sales, who often mention potential economic boosts for the city and tighter product regulations, say they’re taking more of a grassroots approach to their outreach efforts. The anti-marijuana sales PAC, which often cites health and safety concerns, appears to have a larger budget for several other media materials.

Notable contributors

The Klamath Public Safety PAC has transaction records that date back to July 2013. A description in the “Nature of Committee” section reads “support legislation and measures to maintain public safety.”

Those funding the PAC against marijuana sales this year include members of the Wendt family of the Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors namesake, the Eberlein family, Klamath Falls City Councilor Kendall Bell and Klamath Basin Behavioral Health CEO Stan Gilbert.

Coldwell Banker Holman Premier Realty is listed as the top contributor at $3,000. The Wendt family has contributed $1,500, with $1,000 from Mark Wendt and $500 from Nancy Wendt.

Dr. Glenn Gailis, a family physician at Sky Lakes, has also contributed $1,000. Gailis has appeared at numerous meetings to speak out on health concerns he has about marijuana use.

Kendall Bell, who serves as Ward 2 councilor, contributed $250 to the PAC. Her husband, John Bell, also runs Bell Hardware downtown and is chairman of the Sky Lakes Medical Center board.

Contributors on the pro recreational sales side include the Friends of Klamath PAC, Klamath Falls City Councilor Phil Studenberg and chief petitioner Ed Medina Jr.

Medina owns and runs A Better Way Medicinal Alternatives, the only medical marijuana dispensary in Klamath Falls. Studenberg serves city council Ward 1 and works as a criminal defense attorney, a profession he previously told the Herald & News he sought out in relation to his stance of cannabis allowances being an issue of free enterprise, civil rights and liberties.

Medina and Studenberg are the largest cash contributors so far, with $1,500 coming from Medina and $1,200 from Studenberg. Other notable contributions include $150 from co-petitioner Marianne Yong and $700 from resident Jody Daniels.

PAC campaign expenses

Both campaigns are investing in printed materials and media resources, though the anti-marijuana group appears to be taking out more advertisements and large-scale projects. They have also presented several interactive printed graphic materials at local school board meetings.

The group has also purchased several small and large ads in the Herald & News.

The largest expenditure to date is $3,200, in addition to a reimbursement that lists “Outfront Media” as the contributor/payee.

The next largest is $869 from the United States Postal Service. As of Monday, the PAC still has an ending cash balance of $7,699.44, which was also boosted from an additional $1,005.25 from previous years’ balances.

Ann Cavanaugh, who helps with the PAC’s finances, said she did not wish to comment further on specific plans related to the group’s campaign.

“We are looking to make our community more aware of the dangers of marijuana and we hope that our campaign will be successful in doing that,” Cavanaugh said Monday.

Heidi Neel Biggs, who also helps with the group, said in an email Monday that the group has done a number of in-person meetings and continues to relay its information via social media and its website, klamathpublicsafety.com.

Initiative petition expenses

The largest purchase listed under the initiative petition group so far is $625 for “I-Think-Ink.com,” which redirects to a graphics design and sales website. The group has a remaining balance of $3,461.35.

Studenberg on Sunday further described their own efforts as grassroots, saying that they would continue to rely on door-to-door efforts, flyers, mailers and other materials since they had less room for a larger ad budget.

“I’m sure we’ll spend it all on basically merchandise or something like signs,” Studenberg said Sunday. “And I know that the flyers aren’t cheap, because you’re sending it to everybody in the city.”

In a follow-up email Monday, Medina added that they had “no corporate backing” and that he was less interested in “getting groups to endorse the initiative.”

The initiative petition group also has its own website at klamathstrong.com.

Editor’s note: The Herald & News advertisement department and editorial board operate independently from the newsroom. Any views and opinions expressed are not connected directly to newsroom staff or any news articles.