Although recreational cannabis use was officially legalized on July 1, regulatory bodies are unlikely to be prepared to issue licenses to recreational marijuana retailers earlier than the later part of 2015.
To avoid an unwanted surge of demand on the black market, lawmakers have proposed and approved a bill that will allow temporary cannabis sales to adult recreational users beginning October 1. This will give recreational users a means of purchasing the plant as well as give the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the regulatory body in charge of recreational dispensary licensing, time to sort out their regulatory guidelines.
Supporters of the legislation want to attract users to legal methods of purchase while being able to regulate the plant. This will ensure quality control standards and help local dispensary owners maintain their businesses.
Many owners say the temporary sales program will help them navigate the over-saturated market more successfully. In fact, only one quarter of surveyed Portland dispensaries are breaking even financially. There are 310 licensed dispensaries in the state and over 90 more pending applications.
Though the legislation would allow temporary sales state wide, it affords local city and county governments the right to refuse to take part in the program. Some local officials have taken steps to keep medical dispensaries out of their area entirely, and the new legislation does not encroach on that ability.
At the moment, the bill must still win approval from the state’s House and Senate before being signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown. For now, Brown has not voiced her support or disapproval of the bill.
Because the bill would not take effect for several months, Rep. Ann Lininger believes this gives plenty of time for the Oregon Health Authority to put detailed rules and regulations into place as city councils decide whether to participate in the program. Additionally, when the bill goes into effect, the outdoor cannabis harvest will be just starting to come in, which will allow plenty of supply for both medical and recreational users.
Should the bill become a law, cannabis sales will not be taxed until January 4. At this point, a 25 percent tax on recreational users will be implemented. The temporary sales program will end no later than Dec. 31, 2016. By this time, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission should be prepared to open recreational dispensaries. The tax will be set at 17 percent for recreational users. Local governments may also add an additional 3 percent tax with the approval of voters.
A Portland official said the city is unlikely to prevent the temporary sales program in the area.
Theresa Marchetti, a livability program manager in Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement, says the city is gathering a group of community members, marijuana business owners, city officials and neighborhood groups to discuss the best practices for regulation.