Oregon voters approved recreational marijuana legalization during the 2014 Election by a larger margin than any other state that has legalized marijuana thus far. Oregon was also the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession, and the second state to legalize medical marijuana. The State of Oregon has been going through the process of determining what rules will govern Oregon's eventual recreational marijuana industry. The process has involved a lot of controversy, which I expected to happen. After all, politics is a messy business.
Recreational marijuana store licenses are not expected to be issued until late 2016, leaving a lot of consumers with no way to access marijuana legally until then. Oregon households will be able to start growing up to four plants in July, but for those that don't know how to grow marijuana, or don't have the means to grow marijuana, there will be no where to purchase marijuana until the licenses are issued for stores. That is, unless Oregon Senator Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) has his way.
Senator Ferrioli has been floating the idea around the Oregon Legislature of letting medical marijuana dispensaries sell recreational marijuana starting July 1. Per Willamette Week:
The Oregon Legislature is mulling a plan to let medical-marijuana dispensaries temporarily sell pot to all adults as soon as recreational weed becomes legal July 1.
The idea by Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) could solve the problem of where to buy recreational weed while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission licenses recreational growers and stores.
OLCC chairman Rob Patridge has said the licensing process probably won't be finished until late 2016---more than a year after recreational weed is legal to possess.
This plan would create more questions than answers in my opinion. For starters, what does this mean for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's (OLCC) role in recreational marijuana? Activists have been very adamant about keeping recreational separate from medical, and this plan would obviously blend the two, at least for awhile. Would the Oregon Health Authority (OAH) be in charge of overseeing recreational sales, since they would be occurring in dispensaries that they already regulate?
How would the logistics work out? When a recreational customer goes into a dispensary to make a purchase, will they be doing it in a separate area from where medical purchases are occurring? Would they be making those purchases in the same place? While this plan seems like a good way to get sales to occur sooner, there would still need to be a lot of rules created, which doesn't ultimately fix the problem of waiting for the Oregon Legislature to get it in gear. It's not going to be as easy as saying, 'yes, you can now sell recreational marijuana now.'
I like the idea of being able to purchase marijuana earlier than projected, but I don't like the idea of blending the medical and recreational markets. I feel that a lot of politicians would use this as an opportunity to merge the two programs. They would say 'well, we are already doing it, so let's just keep doing it.' That's not what I voted for. I voted for an initiative that kept both separate. How do readers feel? Would you support the idea of letting dispensaries start selling recreational marijuana if it sped up the process? Would you want some type of guarantee that once rules are in place for full recreational, that the two were immediately separated? And if so, what could a politician possibly tell you that would give you the level of assurance that you would be after?