Pot will be legal in Oregon — but you can't buy it – Statesman Journal
It’s being called the second immaculate conception.
Come Wednesday, adults 21 and older will legally be allowed to possess and use recreational marijuana in Oregon.
But complicating this new, hard-fought-for freedom is one niggling detail: Potential users must receive their marijuana as a gift or get it on the illegal black market because there are still no licensed retail stores in Oregon where law-abiding residents can buy it.
Simply put, residents can smoke and inhale pot, eat brownies baked with it or rub lotions containing the oils into their skin; there’s just no legal way to purchase it.
This cannabis contradiction is frustrating supporters of legalized marijuana use in Oregon and runs counter to how the state’s neighbor to the north, Washington, rolled out its legal program last year.
Oregon’s legalized marijuana initiative, Measure 91, was passed by a 56 percent majority of voters in November 2014. The measure made it legal for individual adults 21 and older to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana.
The measure also gave the Oregon Liquor Control Commission the authority to tax, license and regulate recreational marijuana grown, sold or processed for commercial purposes. The OLCC does not regulate the home grow/personal possession provisions of the law but will begin accepting applications for growers, wholesalers, processors and retail outlets Jan. 4.
Licensed retail shops, however, are not expected to begin selling recreational marijuana for personal use until fall 2016. So how is an Oregonian expected to legally use marijuana on Wednesday if he or she can’t buy the plant or its products until next fall?
This disconnect between adults being able to use the plant recreationally but not being able to legally buy it has left many shaking their heads.
And it gets a little complicated federally, as well. The federal government still considers possession and cultivation of pot against the law. Possession typically carries a misdemeanor charge and fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Growing it is a felony, punishable by prison terms and penalties ranging from $250,000 to $1 million.
If the state was trying to make it difficult for law-abiding residents to partake of pot, it succeeded. Russ Belville, head of Portland NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), said the “immaculate conception” is frustrating Oregonians.
The Oregon Legislature was considering a bill late last week that might create an outlet for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell limited amounts to recreational users. But the bill’s future was uncertain.
The uncertainty has left folks who want to comply with the law with few options.
“There really is no way right now for Oregonians to enjoy this new law,” Belville said.
There are options, Belville said, but they’re not acceptable to many. Residents can travel across the state border to Washington, where legal marijuana shops exist, and buy marijuana there. The pitfall is that bringing marijuana back across the state border, even though it’s legal in both states, is illegal, and residents using this option run the risk of running afoul of federal law if they’re stopped by law enforcement agents.
Currently, there are more than 300 retail shops in the state of Washington. Six of them are in Vancouver, which is just across the Columbia River from Portland.
Adam Hamide, manager of Main Street Marijuana there, said his shop is the No. 1 adult-use recreational marijuana store in the world. He is on track to do $2 million in business in June. He finished May with $1.75 million in sales.
“And about 45 percent of my clients come from Portland,” Hamide said.
Apparently Washington’s tax on marijuana hasn’t deterred customers from Oregon. The state’s website said it has collected more than $53 million in excise taxes since its retail seed-to-sale tracking program began in July 2014. The taxes were raised on $143 million in marijuana purchased by customers. Counties also benefited, collecting an average of 9 percent on the sales.
Washington does not allow medical-marijuana sales in the same stores as recreational marijuana. Colorado, where marijuana is also legal, permits one-stop shopping for both medical and recreational marijuana.
Belville said it’s not expected that the local police bureaus will be making it a priority to stop cars suspected of carrying marijuana from Washington into Oregon, but it can be intimidating to users who want to adhere to the letter of the law instead of just the spirit.
Other options include using black market sources or getting someone known to share their medical marijuana. But that, said Todd Dalotto, president of CAN! Consulting in Corvallis, can lead medical-marijuana users to be in violation of their medical marijuana cards, which prevent registered card holders from transferring their medical supply.
“Oregonians are in a similar position to where patients were when medical marijuana was legalized in 1999,” Dalotto said. “In many cases, the original cannabis had to come from an illegal source. Come July 1, there are going to be a lot of adults who want to be able to use marijuana legally. Do we want them buying from safe sources or going on the black market?”
Dalotto said medical marijuana is strictly tested for potency, pesticides and mold. He hopes the Legislature will work out a deal to allow users to avoid black-market purchases.
Tom Towslee, a spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, agreed that there are no easy solutions to the problem facing Oregonians looking to celebrate the end of cannabis prohibition but who don’t want to violate other state and federal laws.
“Our official response has been we can’t help with that issue,” Towslee said. “The OLCC does not regulate home growing or use. But we’ve gotten a lot of calls asking the question, ‘How do I stay within the law?’ so we remind them that it can be given away. There is going to be a gray area that will be worked out over time. Oregonians are resourceful; they’ll figure it out.”
To that end, Belville said, there is a fourth option. On Tuesday, Portland NORML will join other activist groups for a celebratory photo opportunity on the west side of the Burnside Bridge in Portland with the “Portland, Oregon” sign in the background.
Then, at midnight, the moment recreational marijuana becomes legal, volunteer activists will give adults 21 and older with proper identification a few free cannabis seeds and some usable marijuana. Belville said the giveaway will occur in a nearby enclosed tent, hidden from public view, as required by the new law.
“We’re calling it a celebration of the midnight hour,” Belville said. “Where adults will be allowed to give it away rather than allowing the black market to thrive on our new legality.”
[email protected]; (503) 399-6746 or follow on Twitter at @CATMCurrie
There are several seed giveaways to commemorate July 1, the first day marijuana possession and use in Oregon will be legal.
1.One seed company is giving away seeds on July 1, which is legal. Stoney Girl Gardens will distribute 10,000 packets of cannabis seeds during an event from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (or until supplies are exhausted) to any adult 21 and older who visits the dispensary at 10287 SE Highway 212, Clackamas.
One packet per adult with a valid ID will get a packet while supplies last. The company also has plans to give away starts during an upcoming grow class.
2.At 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 30, Portland NORML will join other activist groups for a commemorative photo opportunity on the west side of the Burnside Bridge with the iconic “Portland, Oregon” sign in the background.
At midnight, as marijuana becomes legal, volunteer activists will give any adult 21 and older with proper identification free cannabis seeds and some usable marijuana from an enclosed tent and hidden from public view as required by the new law.
Read or Share this story: https://stjr.nl/1Il0iZF