On Thursday, October 1, Oregon joined the ranks of those rare, but increasingly prevalent states that sell cannabis through dispensaries and retail outlets to citizens who are 21 and older. When Oregon passed Measure 91 in 2014, which legalized recreational cannabis possession and consumption for fans of the culture in the Beaver State, all stakeholders knew it would probably be 2016 before adults were actually able to legally walk into a safe, regulated retail outlet without a medical exemption and purchase cannabis.
The state surprised everyone when, over the summer, it announced that it would make recreational cannabis sales legal through existing dispensaries to expedite the rollout of the recreational market and get a leg up on illegal dealers eager to supply a newly motivated and hungry population of consumers. Said Portland resident John Finley:
“Before, I had to go through potentially dangerous, weird people in motels, for instance. Or just people I didn’t want to deal with or don’t trust. It was legal, but I didn’t have any options.”
A Short History
In 1998, Oregon became the second state in the nation to pass a medical marijuana law that permitted and regulated the cultivation, processing, and dispensation of medical cannabis to patients with a wide range of ailments.
Roughly 200 of Oregon’s 345 medical dispensaries have registered with the state to expand their customer base to recreational consumers. On June 30, Oregon passed HB 3400, a law to regulate recreational sales, including a detailed seed-to-sale tracking system and the progressive expungement of thousands of non-violent cannabis offenses.
Senate Bill 460, which Oregon governor Kate Brown signed during the summer, allowed recreational sales via dispensaries beginning on October 1 as a means of kickstarting the state’s recreational legalization while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission crafts regulatory language that will set the rules for all recreational marijuana sales in the state. Recreational sales will be tax-free until January 4, 2016, when a 25 percent tax will go into effect.
On July 1, Oregon’s recreational law went into effect, making it legal for millions of Oregonians to possess up to eight ounces of the herb, grow small amounts at home (four plants, if kept out of public view), and take up to an ounce outside their residence. But with only a network of medical dispensaries and no existing recreational retail outlets, cannabis consumers in the state have been trapped in a Catch 22, with no convenient and safe access to the herb that has finally been legalized.
By allowing medical dispensaries to also sell cannabis to recreational users, the state hopes to establish an advantage over the black market and cartels, pushing organized crime out of communities and generating much needed tax revenue. Unfortunately, the state will not even begin accepting applications from entrepreneurs and businesses for retail licenses allowing cultivation, processing, testing, and retail sales of cannabis and cannabis products until January 4, 2016. Recreational retail outlets are expected to begin opening later in 2016, most likely the third and fourth quarter.
Oregon joins Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia to offer adults 21 and older the legal right to purchase, possess, and consume cannabis for non-medical purposes. Ironically, while California was the first state to establish a legal and semi-regulated environment for medical cannabis in 1996 with Proposition 215, technically speaking, recreational sales are still illegal in the state (a recreational ballot issue scheduled for 2016 is expected to pass). Like Oregon until now, Alaska, which has legalized possession and consumption for all adults, also has not begun legal sales of cannabis to recreational consumers.
While pot sales between individuals remains illegal, gifting and sharing herb is permitted in Oregon. The new recreational law allows citizens to purchase “flower and dry leaf products, plants, and seeds,” according to Oregon.gov. Note the distinct exception of concentrates and edibles. Unfortunately, residents of Oregon who choose to take advantage of the state’s new recreational legalization will be limited to only seven grams (a quarter ounce) of flowers (buds) and related products (the same daily amount that Colorado allows tourists to purchase, while residents can purchase an ounce per visit).
This restriction will be teasingly painful due to the fact that recreational consumers can currently legally shop only in certain medical dispensaries, most of which also sell edibles and concentrates to patients. While displayed direction in front of customers, dispensaries won’t be permitted to sell such prominently promoted products to recreational shoppers. Oregon’s recreational smokers and vapers simply won’t have legal, safe access to concentrates such as Butane Hash Oil (BHO) and its myriad variants (like wax, shatter, and crumble), tinctures, CO2 oil, and live resin.
For those thinking of purchasing and consuming recreational cannabis in Oregon who aren’t tapped into the details of what’s permitted, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has published an infographic that may help. Those sad about a lack of legal access to edibles and concentrates can print out a copy and use it to blow their nose and wipe their tears of frustration.
Where Things Stand
Oregon has set a new record in the sparsely crowded field of states that allow recreational cannabis sales. It sold $11 million worth of non-medical weed after one week of sales. Compare this to what other recreationally legal states sold during their first week of legality:
- Colorado: $5 million
- Washington: <$1 million
- Alaska: $0 (rec sales have not yet begun)
In Oregon, pro-marijuana advocates have been working tirelessly for months, spreading word about the benefits that may come from legalizing cannabis, and yesterday it all came to fruition. The war on marijuana has been going strong since the mid 1930’s, but the everyone on the Measure 91 team, from the big names, familiar faces, and law enforcement officers all the way down to the foot soldiers, may finally rest easy today knowing that they have been triumphant. Yesterday, voters elected Oregon to be the third of the United States to legalize the recreational use and retail sale of marijuana. Congratulations, Oregon!
What exactly does this mean for residents of Oregon?
Although, Measure 91, also known as the Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act of 2014, may not legalize cannabis as an import or export crop for the state of Oregon, it does allow for recreational use by residents and retail sale of marijuana by licensed dispensaries within the state. Adults aged twenty-one years or older, will be permitted to possess up to eight ounces of dried marijuana flowers, and to cultivate up to four marijuana plants in a private residence. Under this measure, the retail sale of cannabis will be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The state medical marijuana laws will remain unchanged.
This is only the beginning of a lengthy process for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the residents of Oregon. Measure 91 may have been approved by voters in November 2014, but it does not take effect until July 1, 2015. It is unlikely that retail marijuana dispensaries will be ready to open that day because the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has until the beginning of 2016 to issue business licenses. However, the OLCC may start drafting regulations, and accepting applications as soon as they are ready.
Congratulations are in order for the farmers of Oregon, as well, because under Measure 91, cultivating industrial hemp is also legalized!
photo credit: Oregonlive
Voters in Oregon may quite possibly make history today by becoming the third of the United States to legalize marijuana. On the ballot, Measure 91, also known as the Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act of 2014, will allow adults aged twenty-one years or older to possess up to eight ounces of dried marijuana flowers and up to four marijuana plants. Under this measure, the retail sale of cannabis will be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The state medical marijuana laws will remain unchanged.
Support for what has been referred to as “the most regulated and strict marijuana measure ever voted upon in Oregon,” has been steady throughout the polling season, but in recent days it has increased. The most recent poll by Survey USA was released on October 28. It shows a majority of voters approve of the marijuana legalization initiative in the state. This poll shows fifty-two percent of all surveyed support voting yes on Measure 91, and this is the number advocates hope will show true at the end of the election day.
The graph above depicts results from three different polls by Survey USA, and includes the most recent results that are written in the paragraph above. The far left on the graph shows results from poll released September 25, where voter approval of legalizing marijuana was only at forty-four percent. The middle number, showing a forty-eight percent approval for Measure 91 from likely voters, was released October 20. In about one month, voter approval increased four percent. The numbers on the far right are from the most recent poll, released October 28. Just eight days later, approval increased to fifty-two percent.
The likelihood of this marijuana law reform initiative being passed by voters increases with the number of votes being cast. Want to help the cause?
Send your friends in Oregon a friendly reminder to vote, no matter which side of the fence they are on, using a Facebook App. First, find out if your registered friends in Oregon have already voted by going to DidTheyVoteYet.Org. The app can be downloaded through that site, and it will search your Facebook friends for you. It will populate a list of your friends who have not yet cast a ballot, and then you can call and text them until they exercise their American right to vote. As the Measure 91 initiative pointed out, marijuana cannot legalize itself.
photo credit: ABC News, Survey USA
The pro-marijuana legalization campaign in Oregon, Yes on 91, has incorporated a creative strategy into their mission to encourage registered voters to exercise their rights by using a clone-able Facebook app.
How does it work?
First the app matches contacts from your Facebook account to the list of registered voters in the state of Oregon. Next, the app will show you which of your Facebook friends are registered to vote, but who have not yet submitted a ballot. Lastly, it will give you the option to send a private Facebook message to each friend, reminding him or her cast their vote.
Once registered voters have cast a ballot, the registered voter website marks the person as having voted, so this app will only match people who have not yet voted. Do not fret, it does not show who or what a person voted for. This app can be added to Facebook by going to DidTheyVote.org. People can find out whether or not their friends have voted yet, and then politely or overwhelmingly remind that person to exercise his or her rights as an American.
One fan of the app, Sarah Duff, a volunteer with the campaign supporting Measure 91, told the Daily Journal,
“This kind of app is great because it helps me do all the things I would do anyway, which is remind my friends to vote.”
The organization anticipates this reminder tool to appeal especially to young voters, and are excited to see the results next week.
photo credit: Getty