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No stampede (yet) to outlaw early sales of recreational marijuana

Marijuana Oregonian photo

Marijuana
Oregonian photo

Oregon is down to the last thirty days during which Oregon cities and counties can decide whether to let medical marijuana dispensaries sell recreational marijuana until the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) develops rules for its sale by regular marijuana outlets which are expected to start getting licensed after the first of the year.

It’s been ten months since a 56% to 44% majority of Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana, subject to state regulations, of course. But it’s been the lack of those final state regulations that has had local governments tied in knots. After Measure 91 passed, the legislature went into high gear acknowledging the counties and cities that passed it, but gave the counties and cities that didn’t pass it a way to soften the blow of losing.

One of those “compensatory” options is not allowing the growing, processing and sale of recreational marijuana inside their cities, or in the unincorporated parts of their counties. But remember – anyone over the age of 21 can still legally possess small amounts of marijuana – even grow a few of their own plants – but they can’t smoke or otherwise consume it in public view or in public places.

As of this writing 15 cities and five counties have outlawed recreational marijuana growing, processing and sales. But that’s only 6% of the overall state population. Of those 20 entities, most made their decisions as the final word – there will be no chance for the voters to overturn those bans. At least not anytime soon.

But most of those cities and counties are east of the Cascades (except for Douglas County) – not prime growing areas for marijuana. So no great loss there. But anyone in central or eastern Oregon who might want to buy recreational marijuana rather than a six pack of beer, or a bottle of wine, will have to make quite a drive to get some.

Which gets to the core argument surrounding the debate about local sales of recreational marijuana. If it’s hard to buy it, the black market will step in and provide the service – something that most elected officials in the “ban it” communities complain the most about. So there’s no small amount of irony in play here. But there are also those who contend that the black market will be everywhere anyway – even in communities that allow its retail sales. They say the black marketeers will sell it cheaper than the store-front marijuana retailers, made possible, in part, by heavy state and local taxes on it.

Many other Oregon cities and counties are awaiting final regulations from the Oregon Health Authority, which runs the current MEDICAL marijuana part of the issue. OHA officials say they will have “final” rules and regulations about temporary (gap sales) recreational marijuana sales via medical dispensaries before the October 1st deadline. Those cities and counties that allow medical dispensaries to sell it will do so until the Oregon Liquor Control Commission develops final rules on sales by regular retail outlets – at which time dispensaries will cease selling it – going back to just medical sales.

However, there have been some discussions in Salem about EVENTUALLY combining both medical and marijuana sales under one roof.

So again, as of September 2nd, 94% of Oregonians will have convenient access to recreational marijuana beginning October 1st – 6% will not – most of them in eastern and central Oregon where the NO vote on Measure 91 was most strong. But that is not to say that as the October 1st deadline approaches, more cities and counties won’t step up and ban recreational sales themselves until OLCC gets its act together on how recreational sales will operate.

By the way, those areas that continue to ban any aspect of recreational marijuana growing, processing or sales, will not receive any tax revenue from its sales elsewhere in the state. But if their resolve buckles, and they allow growing, processing and sales, they get to put a 3% sales LOCAL sales tax on product grown, processed and sold within their city or county.

Carrot and stick, don’tcha know…

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