Marijuana

Legal Marijuana Sales Begin in Oregon Tomorrow

Before state-licensed shops open next year, medical dispensaries get to serve recreational consumers.

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Jacob Sullum

Less than a year ago, Oregon voters approved Measure 91, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. Since July 1, Oregonians who are 21 or older have been allowed to possess up to an ounce in public and grow up to four plants at home. Tomorrow cannabis consumers without green thumbs (or friends who have them) will have another option: They can legally buy marijuana at more than 200 locations.

In the other states that have legalized marijuana, consumers have had to wait significantly longer than 11 months for legal recreational sales. It took 14 months in Colorado and 20 months in Washington. Alaskans, who approved a legalization measure the same day Oregonians did, probably will not see legal recreational sales until late 2016, since the Alaska Marijuana Control Board is still working on regulations for growers and retailers. Oregon got a faster start because legislators decided to let medical marijuana dispensaries serve recreational customers before the state begins licensing new pot stores next year.

As in Colorado and Washington, those state-licensed outlets will not operate throughout the state. The Oregonian reports that "governments in six eastern Oregon counties—plus 13 cities in those counties—have voted to ban medical and recreational marijuana sales, production or processing." Measure 91 said local governments seeking to exclude marijuana businesses had to let voters decide the issue. But in response to complaints from local officials, who argued that the continued federal prohibition of marijuana made that requirement legally questionable, the state legislature decided to allow bans without a plebiscite in jurisdictions where at least 55 percent of voters opposed Measure 91. That dispensation applies to 15 counties in eastern Oregon.