Pros, cons of earlier Oregon retail pot sales

Will it help or hurt the nationwide drive to legalize?

In this May 25, 2015 photo, Alvaro Calistro, president of the Manga Rosa Social Club, smokes a joint in the living room of his house where his has a marijuana club in Montevideo, Uruguay. The clubs, which are sprouting up around Montevideo, are essentially giant greenhouses where members can grow plants to their liking and, of course, smoke a joint or two to test a harvest. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On July 1, it’ll be legal to possess marijuana in Oregon. But the retail sales aren’t set to begin until around October 2016, the OLCC said.

Lawmakers are looking at implementing earlier-than-expected retail sales through medical marijuana dispensaries. Supporters think it’s a great idea, but others wonder if it will hurt the entire legalize-marijuana movement nationwide.

The joint Senate Committee on Implementing Measure 91 heard testimony Thursday about accelerating the sales of legal weed.

At that hearing, various voices made their points:

“We anticipate that the number of medical patients who will come in and get marijuana that they will then turn around and sell to their friends basically is going to be huge,” said dispensary owner Donald Morse.

“I truly do believe we need to have the early start time,” said Sen. Floyd Prozanski.

“We understand the urgency for making sure that we can get these sales online as soon as possible,” said Casey Houlihan of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association.

Oregon State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)
Oregon State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)

Prozanski told KOIN 6 News the sooner the state-backed legal sales start, the better.

“Maybe we just want to capture that market that could be going to the black market and get it into our process through the dispensaries, if the dispensaries want to enter into that market,” he said.

Some say Oregon’s excess medical pot supply feeds the black market. But others, like Adam Hamide of Main Street Marijuana, said it could be the other way around.

That pot “could come from your basement, that could come from Mexico,” he said. Recreational sales through dispensaries could make the problem worse.

Adam Hamide of Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver, June 19, 2015 (KOIN)
Adam Hamide of Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver, June 19, 2015 (KOIN)

“Now, if all of a sudden you have a state-sponsored outlet where you can sell your illegally grown marijuana, why wouldn’t you come in?” Hamide said.

His Vancouver pot shop sells only seed-to-sale tracked product, all grown in Washington — in compliance with the Cole Memorandum. Those are rules the federal government said that, if followed, will keep the feds away.

Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, Hamide worries Oregon might wake the sleeping giant.

“The feds are going to come in. They’re not going to be happy with this marijuana flowing across state borders,” Hamide said. “It puts the entire system at risk.”

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