Don Morse wanted to install an electric sign on his Southwest Portland medical marijuana dispensary so he arranged for a local representative of a national sign company to come by his shop.
A few days later, Sharyl Herigstad, an Oregon representative of Yesco, the Utah-based sign company, emailed Morse a proposed design. Morse, who with Sarah Bennett owns the Human Collective, approved the sketches and waited for the bid.
Instead, he got a call last month from Herigstad who said the company’s corporate officials rejected the job, which Morse estimated would have cost $ 10,000.
“Corporate said, ‘We don’t do business with marijuana,'” said Morse. “They steadfastly refused to build us a sign.”
Morse wanted the sign to feature the shop’s name and carry a green cross, a common symbol for medical marijuana. He said Herigstad referred him to another sign company.
Yesco is a national company headquartered in Salt Lake City. On its website, the company, founded in the late 1800s by a Mormon, advertises its work with Las Vegas casinos, large American corporations, like Starbucks, and events like the Olympics.
The Human Collective shares a Southwest Barbur Boulevard shopping plaza with a handful of other businesses, including Adam & Eve, a sex products shop. Joshua Traughber, a general manager for eight Adam & Eve stores in Oregon, Nevada and Idaho, said his company also has tried, unsuccessfully, to work with Yesco, which also operates billboards.
Traughber said Adam & Eve recently tried to hire Yesco to make a sign for its Portland shop, which opened less than a month ago. He said Yesco also has refused the company’s attempts to advertise on its billboards.
“Yesco will not let us advertise with them,” he said. “We have tried for years and years in different states.”
In an email to The Oregonian/Oregonlive, Herigstad said she was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company. A message left at Yesco’s corporate headquarters was not returned.
“It’s just a business to business transaction,” said Morse, who compared his treatment to that of a Portland lesbian couple whose 2013 wedding cake order was rejected by a Gresham bakery.
“We are running a legal business in this state,” said Morse, whose shop is licensed by the Oregon Health Authority. “This is wrong. We fought enough battles to get where we are and now we have to fight businesses that provide services?”
Leland Berger, a Portland attorney who advises marijuana businesses, said Yesco’s rejection Morse’s order isn’t illegal.
Berger said he encountered similar attitudes when searching for office space. One potential landlord said she wouldn’t permit Berger to post a sign with his business name, Oregon Cannabusiness Compliance Counsel.
“There is bigotry around cannabis businesses,” he said. “There is no doubt about it.”
— Noelle Crombie