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The owner of an Oregon cannabis shop destroyed by the wildfires ravaging the West Coast is vowing to rebuild, despite being ineligible for the aid provided to most businesses. Thorin Thacker, the co-owner of Canyon Cannabis in Gates, Oregon, was told that it took only 15 minutes for the store to burn to the ground, according to a report in local media.
Thacker, who once served as the mayor of nearby Mill City, said that he and his business partner had created a laid-back, vintage atmosphere for the shop in the forest south of Portland.
“This place was full of color,” he said. “And there was always an album playing. The only way we got to listen to music was on vinyl. A buddy of mine’s wife says, ‘Oh, so you sell grass out of your record store because it felt like a dispensary you might find in the ‘70s.’”
But after fire swept through both Gates and Mill City nearly three weeks ago, Canyon Cannabis is a total loss, the building burnt to the point of collapsing in on itself. Residents and business owners in the two towns were not able to return to the area to see the damage until Friday.
“Seeing it like this is just so heartbreaking,” Thacker said while viewing the destruction.
Aid Hard To Come By For Cannabis Businesses
Although both medical and recreational marijuana are legal in Oregon, the continuing status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug at the federal level makes insurance and other business services difficult to obtain and costly when they are available. As a result, many business owners in the cannabis industry are left without protection.
“The nature of the business that we’re in doesn’t even allow us to insure our inventory,” Thacker said.
The federal illegality of cannabis also means that disaster relief programs that many other businesses rely on to rebuild after a loss, such as financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are unavailable to companies in the cannabis industry.
“When FEMA comes down and has a bunch of assisted loans and tax dollars that can come and help small businesses rebuild, because we’re a cannabis industry, it does not allow us to participate in any of that money,” Thacker said.
Considering the high taxes levied on regulated cannabis, Thacker believes that businesses in the industry should be treated more equitably.
“It’s not fair that we should, and again, I’m glad to pay the taxes, but it’s not fair that we should pay as much as we do in taxes,” Thacker said. “We just don’t get to participate in any of the benefits from all of the revenue we put into that.”
Extent Of Damage To The Industry Not Yet Known
So far, seven cannabis businesses have reported a total loss to the state’s industry regulator, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The agency sent out a survey to license holders last week, but not all businesses owners have been able to return to assess any damages that may have occurred. Although no financial assistance is available, a spokesman for the OLCC recreational marijuana program said the regulator is providing help when it can.
“Where the OLCC can help, however, is in kind of reestablishing their operational ability, to get them up and running, to make sure they’re compliant, maybe to do a change of location for their business,” said Mark Pettinger.
But even without help to cover the costs, Thacker vowed that Canyon Cannabis would rebuild.
“This community lost a lot and we’re going to miss all of our customers so much,” he said. “But we’ll come back. We’ll come back.”