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Jan-13-2017 11:11printcomments

Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensaries May Be Forced to Switch to Recreational Licenses

Consumers Hurry up and Wait as Oregon's cannabis market is shored up.

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Cannabis grow operation in Colorado.

(SALEM, Ore.) - For a few months now, Oregon has allowed medical marijuana sales and recreational marijuana sales to cohabit side by side through different sets of regulations.

However, due to new changes in legislation, marijuana dispensaries are being forced to choose between serving medical patients or recreational marijuana users as of January 1 of this year.

What does this mean to patients & rec consumers?

For those who strictly consume marijuana for recreational purposes, this may sound like great news. However, to those patients who use marijuana for different medical reasons, these new changes may have disastrous effects.

Prices are expected to increase as medical providers enter a more competitive market, and some patients are opting to buy on the black market, in lieu of the increase of fees to the State.

Changes in Regulatory Bodies

The principal reason these changes are being implemented is the confusion between the different regulatory bodies in the state. The Oregon Health Authority is responsible for overseeing medical marijuana use in the state, while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is in charge of recreational marijuana.

Those who operate dispensaries are free to choose between a medical marijuana license or a recreational one. However, they cannot use both within the same establishment. And, nothing they do is actually free.

While this may not be as big of an issue for large chains with multiple locations, most smaller mom and pop operations are suffering. This is because larger operations have the ability to re-identify some of their destinations as either recreational or medical, while smaller ones may not have that luxury.

End of the Early Sales Program

As soon as Measure 91 was adopted, the State of Oregon started implementing an early sales program which allowed adults 21+ to buy cannabis through medical dispensaries, which previously had been off limits without OMMP permit.

This was done to curb black market sales, and to get new consumers used to the idea of buying marijuana legally. And of course (and maybe most importantly), to start bringing in those much-anticipated tax revenues.

However, these provisions were set to expire by mid 2016 as new recreational marijuana providers were expected to open locations by then. The state extended the expiration date to the end of 2016 for providers to officially make the switch.

A spokesperson from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission released an email in which he stated that the end of the early sales program was officially effective, and that only patients holding a valid medical marijuana card will be able to get marijuana through medical dispensaries.

Some dispensary owners say the OLCC has simply neglected to complete all of the applications within their own time frame, leaving the majority of locations "medical only" and scores of staff members have been laid off as the majority of dispensaries have not received their approved recreation license.

What this means is that some adults have better access to legal cannabis (marijuana) than others. For instance, many localities in the state have voted to forbid the opening of recreational marijuana dispensaries, which could complicate access for recreational users.

Medical marijuana patients might be confused as to whether a location falls under the recreational or medical category.

And in other cases, over-saturation of the market by recreational marijuana shops might drive medical dispensaries out, forcing medical marijuana patients to either use recreational dispensaries or travel to find a medical one.


All in all, what this new legislation means for Oregon marijuana users is that they will need to be more diligent about which dispensaries fall under the medical or recreational category.

It might also completely transform the medical marijuana landscape in Oregon, but also on the Federal level. Hopefully, the laws of the market will prevail and allow affordable prices and greater accessibility for all, after all this dust settles.

Source: Special Features Dept.


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Rachel January 15, 2017 4:37 pm (Pacific time)

Prices aren't higher in the recreational market because of a more competitive market but because of regulations, the ones that were already there that medical providers didn't always follow (like payroll taxes for employees) and the new regulations of tracking everything from seed to sale, extreme testing, and massive security designed for the OLCC to keep their eyes on the licensees. In theory, if it was just a competitive market, prices would go down.

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