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OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Ryan Walker, Josh Olague and Tyler Walker own and operate Cannabis Nation medical marijuana dispensaries in Beaverton and Seaside. They plan to soon open a new dispensary at the corner of Southeast Division and Burnside in Gresham. At the vacant former bank building at 1500 N.E. Division St., a vault that used to hold money will now be home to another kind of green product: marijuana.

Put another way, the bank literally went to pot.

The 4,000-square-foot building, situated at one of Gresham’s busiest intersections — Burnside Road and Division Street — will soon be the headquarters for Cannabis Nation.

Owned by twin brothers Ryan and Tyler Walker, their father who lives in Arizona, and friend Josh Olague, the marijuana dispensary is scheduled to open in a few weeks. But until the Oregon Liquor Control Commission begins issuing business licenses, expected later this year, the dispensary will only sell to Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card holders.

This location will be the biggest of Cannabis Nation’s dispensaries, with one in Beaverton and another in Seaside. The business owners also have a marijuana grow operation in Gresham, but asked to keep the location a secret for safety reasons.

The men know exactly how lucky they are to have scored that location, especially in light of Gresham’s strict regulations that dictate that another dispensary could not locate within 1,000 feet of Cannabis Nation.

The dispensary will carry 30 strains of marijuana flowers, as well as marijuana concentrate, pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes, cannabis soda, marijuana lotion and other edible and topical marijuana products. The jars of flower will be displayed throughout the shop in glass with magnifying lenses for tops so people can really see up close what they’re buying.

Because the site is a former bank, the dispensary could also accommodate a drive-thru, but the business owners know that’s probably far, far in the future of possibilities.

Another benefit to the location is that it won’t face competition from the many dispensaries on the border of Portland and Gresham. Residents east of the city will also likely come to Cannabis Nation for their product.

“People are stopping by daily,” Ryan Walker said. True to his word, moments later there was a knock at the door from a man who wanted to know if the shop was open yet.

For the business owners, their main concern is that recreational sales are allowed sooner rather than later, with Tyler Walker saying no business would be able to survive on medical sales alone.

Many people who had medical marijuana cards have let them expire, Ryan Walker explained, because recreational marijuana is so widely available and legal in Oregon.

While the men have their eyes on fast growth, they’re currently dealing with the challenges of being a new business that’s not recognized as legal under federal law. For instance, they don’t yet have a bank to handle their money.

“We get bank accounts shut down all the time,” Tyler Walker said.

Like other dispensaries, the building is outfitted with cameras. Customers are only allowed into where the product is displayed after being buzzed in through a separate front entrance.

About 11 employees will work at the Gresham location.

“We’re going as big and as fast as we can,” Tyler Walker said.

The business owners hope to become a staple and a contributing company in Gresham, if the business community will accept them.

They’ve held food and toy drives at their Beaverton location and recently raised money in their Seaside store for Seaside police officer Jason Goodding, who was shot to death while serving a warrant earlier this month.

The dispensary will operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. While they don’t have an exact date for a grand opening, they assured The Outlook that balloons and signs would be visible to mark the occasion.

“We have a bunch of people who want to be the first customer,” Tyler Walker said. “You’ll know.”

One closes, another one opens

Earthy Herbs, the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in Gresham, is now also the first to close.

The dispensary opened on July 29 in an office complex at 16323 S.E. Stark St., but just four months later, in November, shut its doors.

The timing is important as Earthy Herbs, which sits on the border of Gresham and Portland, lost significant sales to Portland when that city allowed its dispensaries to sell to recreational customers starting in October and Gresham did not.

Kristen Ellis, owner of Earthy Herbs, did not respond to phone calls or email requests to comment.

“Kristen communicated to me in January that her and her husband had made the difficult decision to close down their business in early November,” said Eric Schmidt, development director for the city of Gresham. “She mentioned they had a significant drop in sales when Portland opened to the general public.”

Meanwhile another dispensary, Ripped City, had its grand opening on Feb. 22 at 2058 N.W. Burnside Road. Its hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

For now, like any dispensary that opens in Gresham, Ripped City will only sell to medical marijuana customers.

“Opening up medical is extremely difficult,” said Ripped City owner Stacey Kelley. “We’re only really able to work with 2 to 3 percent of the population, so it’s extremely hard to even generate enough revenue to keep your staff paid.”

He continued, “With recreational marijuana available, not a lot of people are going to spend however much money at cost to get their medical license, so I think the city (of Gresham) pretty much put (Earthy Herbs) out of business with not letting them compete in a recreational scale.”

Like Cannabis Nation, Ripped City has its own marijuana grow facility in Clackamas, which cuts down on its cost and will allow it to survive until the OLCC issues recreational business licenses.

“It’s really heartbreaking because we put all our money to getting the store up and running and now can’t sell to recreational people, but we’ll get through it,” Kelley said.

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