Authored By: Keith Mansur
The Rotary Club of Eugene, Oregon has made history. Earlier today they inducted the first Marijuana Dispensary owner in their club, Joseph Hopkins of The Greener Side. Believed to be the first major service club in the world to do so, Eugene Rotary Club’s acceptance shows that cannabis businesses are good for the community and provide a needed service.
Joseph Hopkins of The Greener Side dispensary during the luncheon meeting at Rotary Club of Eugene. Image: Allan Erickson.
Lane County, Oregon has been very accepting when it considered medical marijuana in past years. Now they are doing the same for recreational marijuana, or more appropriately termed “adult use cannabis” sales. The city of Eugene has few unwarranted restrictions on cannabis business operations. Even under the previous OMMA system prior to legalization in 2014, dispensaries like The Greener Side were allowed to operate in the city. Since Measure 91 passed in 2014, Lane county has been very accepting of cannabis growers, and dozens of dispensaries have opened in Eugene alone.
“The city and the community have been very supportive of us and The Greener Side,” said Joe Hopkins, the Rotary inductee and owner of The Greener Side dispensary. “They have been very understanding of how this industry is going through crazy changes…It’s awesome how supportive the city is and how they have been accepting of this industry.”
Hopkins has been attending the Rotary club meetings for many months and has become familiar with many of the club members. Most have been welcoming from the beginning, but there was a split in leadership over inviting him to join the club. That was resolved when the new board took over in July of last year and the club eventually invited him to join.
“A lot of the members were very supportive and happy that I stuck with it.” explained Hopkins. “The first person to shake my had and tell me ‘welcome to the club’ was the Lane County Sheriff.”
Hopkin’s sponsor was Mike Grudzien who has been a club member for over 20 years. He has been involved in a number of industries over the years, but has always remained with the Rotary Club. The clubs projects around Eugene are seen everywhere and include the Hult Center, Cuthbert Amphitheater, and Alton Baker Park just to name a few. The Eugene club, which was founded in 1923, is preceded in the Northwest only by Seattle and Portland and has spun off almost a dozen other local Rotary clubs.
“He’s got a big heart and Joseph is a great guy, and I said, ‘you would make a great Rotarian’,” Grudzien told Oregon Cannabis Connection. “But, it seemed to stir up a hornets nest.”
After many months of Hopkins attending their meetings as a guest of Grudzien and after they checked with clubs in other cannabis states like Colorado, they decided not to discriminate. The final decision was that Hopkins owns a legal business and is an upstanding citizen, and that was all that mattered.
The club President, Jeffery Robinson, explained to OCC, “We honor the diversity of life and people.”
“For that reason, when we meet — at a lunch meeting or a service project — we check our religion, politics and other controversial issues at the door,” Robinson said in the email. “We will leave these matters for other organizations to tussle over. We are unified by a single cause: Leaders serving humanity.”
Robinson added further, “One’s personal affiliations, beliefs, or types of business practices – as long as they are legal — have no relevance to one’s success in Rotary. What matters is our desire to lead out for good in making our community and our world better for future generations.”
Rotary is the worlds largest service organization with over 1.4 million members worldwide in clubs located in every country. Their motto is “Service Above Self”. Robinson explained that having a non-political stance and a good reputation are major factors in their ability to aid children, families, and communities in ways government cannot.
“I am looking forward to being a part of Rotary and giving back to the community,” said Hopkins.
These kind of minor victories help to pave the way for broader acceptance. Cannabis business owners like Joe Hopkins represent our industry very well and show that our industry is main stream, when allowed to be. This will hopefully lead the way to other organizations accepting cannabis to help correct peoples misconceptions.