Gearhart gets its first pot shop

Sweet Relief will be Gearhart's first marijuana store.

GEARHART — Gearhart will get its first marijuana shop.

Sweet Relief, a family-owned chain of dispensaries, is scheduled to open on U.S. Highway 101 next to Gearhart Liquor Store by July 16. This will be the fifth location in Oregon and the second in Clatsop County for Sweet Relief, which opened its first shop four years ago in Astoria.

“We picked Gearhart because we love small towns,” Sweet Relief co-owner Oscar Nelson said. “We feel Gearhart is a great location for both locals and tourists.”

Many marijuana businesses have attempted to operate in Gearhart, City Administrator Chad Sweet said, but haven’t been able to find a suitable location.

Following a temporary moratorium in 2014, the Gearhart City Council in 2015 voted to expand on a state law prohibiting marijuana shops from operating near a school by adopting a zoning ordinance that bans a store closer than 1,000 feet away from any place where “children frequent.” This can mean secondary or career schools, day care centers or public recreation facilities attended primarily by minors.

The stricter ordinance means available property is few and far between. It is what foiled the attempts of Michael Sandberg, who was denied a variance to open a cannabis store on Highway 101 in 2017 because the location was less than 1,000 feet from the Sons of Norway youth baseball field.

The application process went relatively quietly and quickly for Sweet Relief, Sweet said, since the property is located in a commercial zone where retail marijuana is listed as an outright use.

“After having our downtown Astoria location for over four years and (being) in the cannabis industry for over eight years, we are excited to expand in our local neighborhood with another convenient location,” Nelson said.

Port Astordam, a Sweet Relief store in Uniontown in Astoria, closed after an explosion and fire at a nearby marijuana processor in 2016.

There is a 10 percent tax in Gearhart on recreational marijuana and a 5 percent tax on medical marijuana. The tax rates could be reconsidered in the future now that a dispensary will be operating within city limits, Sweet said.

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