Marijuana plants grow under special lights inside the grow facility at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver, Friday Dec. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Marijuana plants grow under special lights inside the grow facility at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver, Friday Dec. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Retail sales of recreational marijuana could begin as soon as Oct. 1 in Oregon, sooner than had been expected.

A joint House-Senate legislative committee voted unanimously Thursday to start early sales through existing medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure heads to a vote in the Senate, likely next week.

Under a law approved last year by voters, marijuana use and possession becomes legal July 1. But regulators say it may be almost a year before they start issuing retail licenses. Until then, users would have to grow their own, get it from a friend or buy it on the black market.

Advocates say the early sales measure also will ensure a legal avenue to distribute a large amount of marijuana that’s expected from the fall harvest.

Anthony Johnson, the sponsor of Measure 91 that voters approved to legalize pot, told KOIN 6 News he is in favor of allowing medical pot dispensaries to sell to the recreational crowd beginning October 1.

Some medical pot shops will apply for a license to permanently sell recreationally, but not everyone in the industry supports that idea.

Additionally, the owners of a retail pot shop in Seattle, Greenleaf Northwest, were in Portland Thursday looking to buy a space downtown.

Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would require pot shop operators to have lived in Oregon for at least 2 years.

Testing, safety and packaging are among the issues are still to be decided, which is why recreational pot shops won’t open next week when possession becomes legal.

KOIN 6 News reporter Lisa Balick contributed to this report.

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