By Pat Caldwell
Bud Minton said all he and his brother Ted wanted to do was open a business in Baker City.
In fact, Bud Minton said, he and his brother want to be as transparent as possible regarding their effort to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Baker City.
The North Carolina resident and his brother are actively searching for a place to situate a dispensary - what Ted Minton dubbed as a Compassion Center in emails to the city - and they first contacted town officials about the proposal last autumn.
"I'm trying to help my brother. We are trying to be on board and to work with the city. To work within the parameters of the legal boundaries. We are trying not to ruffle any feathers," Bud Minton said Thursday in a phone interview.
Bud Minton said he and his brother are already working with a local real estate agent and the duo initially looked into purchasing property on Broadway Street. That effort failed because state regulations stipulate a facility such as a medical marijuana dispensary cannot be situated within a certain distance of a school. The property the Minton's first viewed for purchase - 2820 Broadway St. - is within 1,000 feet of the Baker Middle School.
Recently Ted Minton mentioned in an email to the city that he and his brother were now interested in a piece of property situated on Court Avenue.
". . . Hello, we found a building we like to buy in Baker City 1923 Court Street, it meets the distance requirement by the state, were (sic) just waiting to see if you guys will welcome us ..." Ted Minton wrote in an email to the city.
Bud Minton confirmed he and his brother are aware of the recent efforts by the City Council to create an ordinance to ban such facilities.
"I think they've (the Baker City Council) sent a pretty clear message they are not going to accept a marijuana dispensary in the city. It seems to be a lot of their info is pretty biased," Bud Minton said.
Bud Minton emphasized that neither he nor his brother have criminal records.
"We are both family men," he said.
He also said they've not trying to shroud their business proposal in mystery.
"We haven't tried to keep it a secret," he said.
Minton said he and his brother are from Hermiston so their knowledge of Eastern Oregon was one reason they became interested in Baker City as a possible site for their medical marijuana dispensary.
"So Baker City is not that far off the beaten path from our home city. It is kind of familiar territory," he said.
Bud Minton said he does not use marijuana, either in a recreational way or for medical issues. Yet, he said, both he and his brother live with chronic pain and want to help others who face similar challenges in their day-to-day lives.
"I can sympathize with those that live in pain. We (he and his brother) both have chronic pain. His is from the construction industry. From years of moving sheetrock. That compressed a couple of disks so now he has hardware in them. He lives with pretty extreme pain daily," Bud Minton said.
Minton said even though there is clear resistance from the city's elected board regarding medical marijuana dispensaries he and his brother are still interested in Baker City.
"Our options are still open," he said.
Still, he said, neither he nor his brother want to step into a hostile environment.
"The last thing we want to do is move in and get harassed or not be supported by the community. We'd like to be part of the community. We'd like to think we'd have police protection on our side but listening to the police chief from Baker City, he's talking criminals and yes, there are criminals involved in dispensaries and I agree there probably needs to be stricter rules or background checks or something," Bud Minton said.
Minton said the City Council's position on the matter is "interesting."
"They are making us sound like criminals already and they don't know who we are," Minton said. "We are pretty law-abiding."
City Manager Mike Kee said he was aware of email traffic between the Mintons and the city planning department. The fact someone such as the Mintons is interested in opening a medical marijuana facility in Baker City is not a surprise, he said.
"I mean you know our goal was to get an ordinance passed before March 1, before the law takes effect. We wouldn't be going through this process if we didn't expect that eventually someone would come to Baker or Baker County and build a dispensary," Kee said.
Currently Oregon law compels the Oregon Health Authority to create and then execute a program to register medical Marijuana facilities/dispensaries. Under the law, such facilities must be situated on property zoned commercial, industrial or agriculture.
Police Chief Wyn Lohner said he too was aware of the Minton's inquiries regarding Baker City.
"They are not concerned about the community or the potential effects (of a dispensary) on the community. They have no ties to Baker City. I guess the concern here is somebody from another community who wants to bring this here who really has no stake in our community," Lohner said.
Tuesday night the Baker City Council will ponder the third - and final - reading of a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance that bans such facilities inside city limits.
Bud Minton said he and his brother are just looking for a suitable site for their proposed venture.
"It wouldn't be an illegal business we'd be running. At this point it seems like we would be treated like we were an illegal business. Our intent is not to fight battles (with the City Council) because it's run by conservative board members. But we haven't given up yet," Minton said.