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Oregon Frees the Herb, Retail Sales Begin

Photo by Amber Finnegan

Current Events

Oregon Frees the Herb, Retail Sales Begin

On January 1 recreational sales at medical shops will end in Oregon, adult use customers will be allowed in licensed facilities which should begin opening around that time.

Yesterday over 200 medical cannabis dispensaries across Oregon opened their doors to public sales to adults over the age of 21. Two days earlier, the Willamette Week reported that 47 medical dispensaries were approved to sell cannabis to adults beginning October 1, but by the end of the day on September 30, a total of 87 of Portland’s estimated 119 dispensaries filed with the state to open their doors to adult-use sales.

Although cannabis possession and cultivation became legal in Oregon on July 1, adult-use sales were not set to begin until early 2016, when the first recreational facilities would be licensed. In July, Senate Bill 460 was approved and signed by Governor Kate Brown allowing existing medical shops to sell cannabis to adults over the age of 21 from October 1 through December 31 — tax free.

Dispensaries are restricted to selling only flower (buds), seeds and clones to adult-use customers at this time. Qualifying medical cannabis patients enrolled in the state program will have continued untaxed access to the full range of cannabis products available, including oils, edibles, concentrates and topicals.

Oregon’s marijuana is already the cheapest in the nation and, unlike Colorado or Washington, Oregon is the first state to legalize that shares a border with an existing legal state, which may have an effect on prices. Washington recreational cannabis shops have been open to the public since last July, but the state’s legalization initiative, I-502, has received criticism from within the industry and from residents for over-taxing and regulating supply to keep prices high. Prices just north of the Oregon border run up to double the price.

“[Washington is going to have to lower their tax rate. The state government can’t be too greedy because they will be shooting themselves in the foot. People are going to come here,” said Paul H.

Paul H. was among about 30 people in line at 7 a.m. on Wednesday awaiting the opening day adult use sales at Canna Daddy’s Wellness Center in Southeast Portland. He says although state and local governments are concerned about all the new pot stores, most Portlanders are not.

“A good business will survive, a bad business won’t. As long as they aren’t selling to minors I don’t think most people would have a problem with it.”

November Zochert was born and raised in Portland, but Wednesday was the first time she has had the opportunity to see inside of a dispensary. She chose Cannadaddy’s to make her first legal purchase because it’s her neighborhood shop.

“I have driven by it for four years now and I have always wanted to come in. Now is my chance,” she says.

In nearby northeast Portland, Gram Central Station was proudly selling top shelf grams for $10 and $3 pre-rolled joints — less than half the price than in Colorado or Washington.

“We are also giving all patients an additional 10 percent off,” said budtender Debra Cooper.

Unlike opening day in Colorado, Cooper says the majority of customers were from Oregon — except those from neighboring Washington.

“We have been getting a lot of Washingtonians coming in asking if they can buy [recreational cannabis]. We are expecting a lot of Washington people to come because we have already had a lot ask,” Cooper said.

Nearly 150 people lined up in front of Cannacea, which had been advertising for months that the first 1,000 customers through the door on October 1 would be entered in a drawing to win a year’s worth of free cannabis. About 30 min before the doors opened owner Tish Siler delivered a message to the crowd; Oregon Health Authority (OHA) had called and said they couldn’t give away a year’s worth of cannabis.

“We are keeping our word. We are sorry it’s not us, it’s OHA,” Siler said.

The line was easily the longest in town, with some people arriving as early as 1 a.m. in order to secure their chance of winning. Siler instead offered to compensate the winner with cash equivalent to a year’s worth of cannabis.

One of the people waiting in line at Cannacea was Washington resident Cheryl Aichle, who said she plans to buy a lot of her marijuana in Oregon.

“They are overtaxed,” she said of Washington shops.

She said an eighth in a recreational Washington dispensary runs about $70, at Cannacea eighths were being sold for $24.

Max L. from Costa Rica also waited in the Cannacea line and said he is excited about how legalization in American states will impact South American nations.

“It’s like a reference point because the U.S. in the Latin American region has always been tough on drugs and [when the] people going soft on these laws, allowing recreational use of drugs and marijuana especially, it opens up the perspective for all the Latin American countries to do the same thing. We are very affected by drug dealing and we have a lot of social problems related to it,” he says.

Max says those specific social problems include widespread poverty, gun violence and murder.

At nearby One Draw Two, low prices have made the dispensary infamous as the home to ounces of cannabis as cheap as $70. Budtender Jess McKinney said the store had been at capacity all morning. Around the corner at Nectar — a sleek log cabin in its own miniature urban forest —a steady stream of about 10-15 people wound around the building all day to buy hit strains like Multnomah Coma and PDX Lollipop.

Budtender Adam Pfister at Homegrown Apothecary says the rush of Washington residents might only last until January.

“This is only a temporary measure, once they enact the normal laws we are going to get a 25 percent tax as well,” Pfister says.

Homegrown Apothecary is an herbal apothecary that offers cannabis blended with other medicine herbs as well as cannabis medicinal products. They were selling pre-rolled joints for as low as $3 and say they are excited to open their doors to the public.

Although customers are restricted to one quarter-ounce of flower to be purchased from one shop in a single day, there is no restriction against visiting multiple shops — and locals and Washingtonians alike are enjoying the new freedom.

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