Oregon: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Gear Up For Oct. 1 Recreational Sales
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon are preparing for a big moment this week: when recreational cannabis users will be able to come into their shops, and, for the first time, buy weed, no medical authorization required.
Of Oregon's 345 registered medical marijuana dispensaries, more than 200 have notified the Oregon Health Authority they'll start selling recreational marijuana on Thursday, October 1, reports Gosia Wozniacka at the Associated Press. Some of these dispensaries may not qualify right away if they're still in the application process and haven't been approved, according to Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the OHA.
Oregon voters approved Measure 91 last November. The new law legalized possessiong and growing limited amounts of cannabis for personal use starting July 1. Since Oregon won't be ready to begin regulated recreational sales until next year, medical dispensaries are being allowed to conduct early sales of recreational cannabis, tax-free, as a temporary stop-gap and to curb black market sales.
Taxes on recreational marijuana sales won't begin until January 4, 2016, when a 25 percent tax on retail sales will be added.
Adults 21 and older can buy a quarter ounce (7 grams) of marijuana flowers. Edibles, extracts, concentrates and infused products aren't available in early recreational sales. Customers must provide government-issued photo ID as proof of age.
Ten cities and two counties in Oregon have prohibited early sales of recreational marijuana, including Douglas and Harney counties, Gresham, Brownsville, John Day, Junction City, La Grande, Reedsport and Sherwood.
"It's going to be a surprise for everybody; we're hoping it's really busy," said Lois Pariseau of Gras Cannabis in Portland, which opened four months ago. Lots of people have been walking in asking about the start of early sales, according to Pariseau.
Medical marijuana patients and advocates are worried about a marijuana shortage; they fear the advent of recreational sales will negatively impact patients.
"We're really nervous," said Anthony Taylor, president of Compassionate Oregon, a nonprofit patient advocacy group. "The dispensaries might sell all the marijuana to recreational people and the patients will be left without their medicine."
Prices for marijuana might increase, as well, if demand outstrips supply, Taylor said. While customers can only buy 7 grams of weed once a day at any particular dispensary, they can just go to another shop and buy 7 more grams.
Taylor said his group sent a letter to medical dispensaries, asking them to pledge to maintain enough cannabis for patients, and to serve patients first when recreational users are in the store. "We don't expect them to turn away business," Taylor said, "but we do hope... everybody understands that in medical marijuana dispensaries, the patients come first."
Some dispensaries have agreed, but not all.