Since Oregon voters made the decision to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in 2014 lawmakers have been working to get the industry up and running. In order to start getting sales off the black market and into a legal market sooner, they created an early access program that began in October of 2015 and allowed medical marijuana shops to begin selling to adults 21 and older who were not registered patients. Part of the way into this year they went from being allowed to sell only marijuana flowers to being able to sell edibles and extracts – and on October 1st the state’s first licensed recreational dispensaries opened for business.
After all the hard work that has gone into creating the retail industry – getting businesses inspected and licensed, and creating a preventative system for pesticide testing – the time has come for the Oregon Health Authority to step out of the recreational side of things. While the OHA will continue to oversee the medical marijuana industry, the retail industry will be turned over to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, on time and as intended. Once this happens, medical marijuana dispensaries will once again be limited to selling to registered patients only – while recreational shops will be able to sell to both patients and adults of legal age.
“We will have a presence in the field and we will be dropping in and doing some spot checks on medical dispensaries to make sure that they are only selling to cardholders,” said Ourso, manager of the medical marijuana program at the Oregon Health Authority.
Medical shops found to still be selling to people who are not patients registered with the state will be fined, starting at $500 per violation – which would certainly begin to add up if the shop did so more than once.
Medical marijuana shops do have the option of switching to a recreational license – and for some businesses that will be the only way they can keep their doors open. Some shops expanded and hired more employees with the spike in customers – and will need to continue seeing those customers to keep those employees on their payroll. At the moment there are just under 100 shops licensed with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission – but there are still plenty in the process of obtaining those licenses. For the most part, it seems Oregon is ready for a relatively uninterrupted transition from the OHA to the OLCC come the first of the year.