Thursday is the first day in Oregon you can buy recreational marijuana at a medical marijuana dispensary. No dispensaries, though, are operating in Umatilla or Morrow counties.
Umatilla County and Morrow County banned marijuana growers, processors, wholesalers and shops, as have the cities of Athena, Elgin, Ione, Stanfield and Umatilla.
Pilot Rock is considering a ban, Heppner has an ordinance in the works and Boardman has a hearing Tuesday on the matter.
Lexington City Council voted to not allow medical pot businesses within 1,000 feet of where children gather, which effectively bans the businesses from the city. Echo took a similar tactic, allowing pot operations in commercial zones as long as they are not within a 1,000 feet of a school, park, church, community center or another dispensary.
Weston City Council did not ban pot dispensaries, but it amended its business license rules to exclude businesses in violation of federal law. The Drug Enforcement Agency still considers marijuana a Schedule I substance.
Pendleton City Council approved zoning regulations for marijuana operations, but then effectively banned dispensaries because the business violates federal law. And Hermiston and Milton-Freewater are considering letting voters decide in 2016.
The Legislature amended Measure 91 with House Bill 3400 to allow state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana products to adults starting Thursday. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the agency creating recreational pot regulations, estimates sales of marijuana will generate $10.7 million in revenue for the 2015-2017 biennium. Measure 91 dictates 40 percent of that will go to the state’s Common School Fund, 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism and drug services, and 15 percent to Oregon State Police. The Oregon Health Authority will get 5 percent for alcohol and drug abuse prevention.
Cities and counties will get 10 percent each for enforcement, unless they ban marijuana. Then they get nothing.
Mark Pettinger with the OLCC’s Recreational Marijuana Program said the opt out deadline is Dec. 27, but local governments after that date can rescind their bans and opt in.
Purchases of marijuana are tax free from Thursday until Dec. 31, 2016, then the tax jumps to 25 percent. Pettinger explained the Oregon Health Authority is in charge of the medical dispensaries, and the liquor commission will license retail pot stores starting about a year from now. Marijuana at medical stores will have a 17 percent base tax rate, but local governments can tack on an additional tax up to 3 percent.
For a while, then, buyers will be able to get recreational pot from OHA dispensaries and OLCC stores, though under different tax rates.
Measure 91 has allowed adults since July 1 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana on their person, 8 ounces of usable pot in a residence and a maximum of four plants on a property. But a medical dispensary will sell only a quarter ounce of marijuana flowers to anyone over the age of 21, as long as the person can prove their age with legal identification. Marijuana leaves, seeds and plants also are for sale, but Pettinger said marijuana edibles and extracts are off the table while the agency writes the rules.
The liquor commission aims to allow the sales of edibles and extracts in the second half of 2016, the same time it plans to license retail stores. Pettinger said there will not be a limit on how much marijuana a person can buy from those stores.
At the same time, he said, the law limits how much pot a person can carry or have in their home. So while someone would be able to buy a couple pounds of pot, they may need some friends to help carry it home, then enough homes to keep it all in.
The OLCC’s focus is on the seed-to-sale end of things, Pettinger said, while hangups with possession will fall to the purview of local law enforcement.