By Elon Glucklich, The Register-Guard
cannabis Oregon -- While you were most likely sleeping, sales of marijuana to adults 21 and older became legal in Oregon — just past the stroke of midnight.
Eighty years after “Reefer Madness” shocked the country with its tales of the dangers of marijuana and 50 years after hippies made it a counterculture accessory, Oct. 1 marks the end of prohibition that Oregon marijuana advocates have long hoped for. For opponents of legalization, who worry about its health impacts, it marks a potentially dangerous new turn.
With more than 250 of Oregon’s licensed medical marijuana dispensaries saying they’ll sell to recreational customers, longtime users as well as curious first-timers and others in Eugene, Springfield and much of the state are expected to go pot-shopping Thursday.
At least 28 Lane County dispensaries have gained state approval to sell recreational marijuana, including 15 in Eugene, six in Springfield, four in Cottage Grove and one each in Florence, Oakridge and Veneta.
Bill Whitlock, owner of The People’s Wellness Center on Centennial Loop in Eugene, said he planned to open his doors at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, and keep them open 24 hours a day for several days after Oct. 1.
“We expect to be busy,” Whitlock said.
Oregon is one of four states that have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. It will start with far more dispensaries than did Colorado or Washington state, where pot shops have been up and running for more than a year. Alaska could begin retail sales next year.
Pot shops in Oregon that already sell medical marijuana have made big plans for the historic day — and hope they will have enough to meet what is expected to be a huge demand.
“I’m just trying to basically stock up for maybe four or five times what the normal volume would be,” said Chris Byers, owner of River City Dispensary in the Southern Oregon town of Merlin.
Some dispensaries will be opening just after midnight to get a head start on sales.
One store is offering a goody bag with T-shirts, but no free marijuana. Another will have a live band and 10 percent discounts. The marijuana review site Leafly will set up food trucks at a handful of stores, giving away free meals to anyone who promotes the service on social media.
Several stores have erected billboards in Portland.
Shoppers have one more incentive to buy early and often: Under Oregon law, pot purchases will be tax-free until January — a savings of up to 20 percent.
Under the state law approved last year by voters, possession of marijuana in limited quantities has been permitted since July 1. But there’s been no legal way to buy it.
In Washington and Colorado, which preceded Oregon in allowing legal marijuana sales, the first day of sales brought massive crowds, severe shortages and high prices.
More than 250 medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon have told the state they’ll sell to recreational customers. By contrast, Colorado had 24 stores on Day 1. Washington had just four, and a year later, still has fewer than Oregon.
Oregon also has a robust supply of marijuana that’s grown to support medical marijuana users and for the black market. Companies have invested in massive warehouses in Portland to grow the drug indoors, and Southern Oregon reportedly has some of the nation’s best conditions for outdoor cultivation of marijuana.
Growers don’t face strict regulations yet, so the supply can more easily flow into retail stores than it did in Washington and Colorado.
Still, for marijuana users there’s some concern. Summer has historically been a time of marijuana shortages in Oregon, and most of the outdoor crop isn’t ready to harvest. Indoor growers have had minimal time to ramp up production since lawmakers approved the Oct. 1 start date only three months ago.
Owners of Green Oasis, which has two locations in Portland and more on the way, said they have prepared by trying to cultivate strong relationships with growers.
People who spend at least $40 on Thursday will get a 10 percent discount, co-owner Matthew Schwimmer said.
“We thought it was a good idea to give back to the community,” Schwimmer said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Author: Elon Glucklich, The Register-Guard
Published: October 1, 2015
Copyright: 2015 The Register-Guard