Jean Ann Lawson

Don Stevens
Mayor
North Bonneville, WA

Favorite Music

All over the alternative spectrum from the old, Tears for Fears, to the new, Cold War Kids.

Challenge

Rural communities still struggle from the 2008 recession, including North Bonneville. When Mayor Stevens took office in 2010 full-time city employees had dropped from nine to seven, a huge loss in a town of 1000 residents. Washington state does not have an income tax to help, so communities have to be creative. And North Bonneville is limited to few options with a small population and little land for development. It needed to bolster municipal revenue.

Solution

In November of 2012, the state approved Initiative 502 and legalized recreational use of marijuana. Every county was allowed to open a specific number of marijuana retail centers. The County of Skamania that includes North Bonneville was allotted two stores.

The City Council had discussed opening a recreational dispensary since 2013; the major concern was a possible criminal activity at or near the store. Yet, the Council and public couldn’t deny that an extra revenue stream would be a life-saver. The compromise found was that the store would open but the city would run it. The Council opened a Public Development Authority to seek a license to operate a recreational store, a board maintains operations of Cannabis Corner, and the Council can vote to close the store.

After the PDA won a license, the dispensary was opened in 2015. The PDA used loans to pay for the initial opening costs, but will pay off all debt this year. North Bonneville will be able to rely on Cannabis Corner to bring in up to $200,000 for the city budget each year, which is currently operating annually on $1.2 to 1.4 million. This City will use extra funds to improve services for public health, fire, and police.

Lessons Learned

“Education is key, lots of our citizens were scared and stuck in perceptions from [the old propaganda reel] Reefer Madness.” Had to make sure they understood the real dangers and benefits of marijuana. Public hearings allowed citizens to express their fears about legalization, and provided ample opportunity to address concerns. “During one hearing, a deputy sheriff spoke up about how he never once was called to a domestic dispute that started from marijuana use, and in his experience 9 times out of 10 the dispute was because one or both parties were drunk. Hearing that information from an officer who has been patrolling for over 20 years really turned heads. Get people information from the right source and more will be on your side.”

Don’s Personal Background

Grew up in Garden Grove, CA, in Orange County. Moved to Oakridge, Oregon, where he fell in love with hiking, camping, and fishing in the picturesque Cascades. Served in the Marines until ‘79, kept coming back to Columbia Gorge area in the 80’s while working IT for hospitals and got into mountain biking and snowboarding. Became harder and harder to leave the Northwest.

Startling Fact

“I have set my own term limits, am not a career politician, and hope to hand off the reigns of this city to a new Mayor at the end of the year.”

Contact Info

don@northbonneville.net

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