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High hopes

Family plans opening for medical marijuana dispensary in Rainier, the first in the county
by: Stover E. Harger III A Rainier dispensary, run by the Neveau family, will open April 1 on 1st Street. Some are worried the new legal business will draw crime, while others don’t see a problem with the dispensary opening in town.

It's not your typical family-run business.

Rainier's Neveau family - 45-year-old Ron Neveau, 49-year-old Lori Neveau and their son 23-year-old Ryan Neveau - are anxiously awaiting the April 1 grand opening of Columbia County's first medical marijuana dispensary.

Out of work and looking to make money to support his daughter, Ryan brainstormed a plan earlier this month - with help and financing from his parents - to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Rainier, a convenient way for Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) cardholders to legally obtain the drug. He had been traveling to dispensaries in Salem and Aloha to get his marijuana.

Why not open one close by for others like him, he thought?

'It's like a dream job,' Ryan said Monday morning from inside the still-unfinished interior of the future dispensary. He will run the main operations and his parents will help out around the shop.

For a $20 a year fee, OMMP cardholders can enter Staypuff Organics and peruse their selection of various marijuana strains and food products containing THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana. Under Oregon law, neither the dispensary nor growers can make a profit from selling the drug. The membership fee will help cover rent and other costs.

To make this goal a reality, the family enlisted the expertise of Happy Valley residents Mike Mullins and Jenifer Valley of Stoney Girl Gardens, a pair of medical marijuana growers and owners of numerous OMMP-related businesses. For a fee of $5,000, the pair offer consulting services for those looking to open 'Club Pit Bull' dispensary franchises in their own cities.

By the end of the month they will help open 13 dispensaries around the state. Licensed growers of medical marijuana, such as Mullins and Valley, will provide the stock for the Rainier dispensary. Based on how popular their other dispensaries are, Mullins anticipates around 800 will become members of Staypuff Organics.

With over 47,000 patients in the state program, Valley said demand is high for a simple way to obtain medical marijuana, especially among older cardholders, who she said often buy their drugs illegally for ease.

Marijuana purchased illegally costs around $250, but if obtained from a grower in the medical marijuana program, it costs about half as much. Valley sees dispensaries, such as Staypuff Organics, as a way to help destroy the illegal marijuana market.

Community reaction

Mullins and Valley delivered a presentation to Rainier City Council two weeks ago, letting them know the ins-and-outs of the dispensary and their desire to integrate with the Rainier community.

Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole said when he heard a dispensary was opening in the city he looked for ways to block it. He found none.

Cole isn't against the medical marijuana program in general, but worries that it operates with lax regulation.

Based on conversations with Rainier residents and shop owners around the future location of Staypuff Organics, most are nonplussed by the news a dispensary will open in their town. Some worry about potential crimes, but a majority did not care.

Patty Lamoureux who owns Patty's Haircuts and More next to the future home of Staypuff Organics is fine with the business opening by her, as long as it is helping people.

'I'm a pretty open-minded person,' she said. 'It's fine by me.'

Resident Jim Klein was enthusiastic after hearing the news.

'I think it's absolutely great,' he said. 'I don't think marijuana perpetuates crime.'

Cole still has concerns.

'I'm not too crazy about it opening up,' Cole said. 'I hope people realize that our hands are tied.'

A Club Pitbull franchise opened in Ontario, Ore. in January and there has yet to be any negative issues with it operating in the small city, said Mayor Joe Dominick. The Police Chief does keep an eye on it just in case, he said.

Chronic pain

Lori signed up for the medical marijuana program six years ago to treat a nervous system disorder. After years on expensive and addictive pills and other health remedies she found marijuana makes her feel the best.

The same with Ryan and Ron who say they have been plagued with their own health troubles - Ryan with knee problems from his days playing high school football and Ron with a laundry list of physical ailments.

Ryan's parents helped get him on the program when he turned 18 years old.

'I feel so much better than I did a year ago,' Ryan said.

Safety a priority

When speaking about the dispensary, the topic of safety is heavy on the minds of the Neveau family. They don't want to be targeted by thieves and they want to make a safe, comfortable place for their members.

No drugs will be kept after hours in the shop, multiple security cameras will keep an eye on every corner and no smoking or ingesting marijuana will be allowed on the premises.

Still, Ron has an inkling of worry about the safety of his wife and son who will spend more time in the business than he will.

The fact that the police station sits across Highway 30 from Staypuff Organics does make him feel better, however.

The family hopes to become part of the community just like any other local business. They plan on holding a fundraiser in support of Rainier Days on April 20, a date synonymous with pot smoking.


Staypuff Organics

What: Dispensary for medical marijuana card holders. Opens April 1.

Where: 113 1st St. E., Rainier

Hours: Noon to 6 p.m., Wed. to Sun.

Phone: 503-556-5695