Oregon Recreational Marijuana: Will Sales Start on October 1?

Oregon’s House-Senate marijuana committee is on a roll.

Nine days after recommending HB 3400 (See Oregon’s New Recreational Marijuana Market for more on that), which is already on its way to the Senate—the same committee approved Senate Bill 460-A. This new bill will allow temporary sales of recreational marijuana, beginning October 1, 2015. The sales would occur through any number of Oregon’s 310 medical marijuana dispensaries.  

Will the ability to buy and sell cannabis in Oregon come early?
Will the ability to buy and sell cannabis in Oregon come early?

Whether the bill will be approved is hard to say. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (“OLCC”), which will oversee Oregon’s recreational marijuana industry, opposes any form of early sales. For her part, Governor Brown has been silent. From a consumer and business perspective, the problem with the OLCC position is that the commission likely won’t have Oregon’s recreational program up and running until mid to late 2016. That means marijuana would be legal for over a year, with nowhere to buy or sell it.

October 1 appears to have been selected as a safe date for legislators, as they could have rules in place by that time. Interestingly, if the bill becomes law, marijuana sales will not be taxed between October 1 and January 4, 2016 creating a three-month tax holiday. After the holiday, another measure, House Bill 2041, calls for a 25 percent tax on pot sales to recreational users.

The proposed legislation includes a number of restrictions limiting the extent of sales, including limits on purchase amounts, and no ability to sell foodstuffs or concentrated forms of the drug. The bill also allows city and county governments to bar the temporary sale program outright.

What would the temporary measure mean for Oregon dispensaries? First, dispensaries would need to comply with another set of rules promulgated by the Oregon Health Authority. There would be opportunities to give input on these rules, though the rules would almost certainly require that dispensaries set product aside for patients before profiteering on the open market. Second, the temporary sales program may make for a nice trial run for dispensaries hoping to transition to recreational storefronts under the OLCC regime.

Dispensary owners (and potential recreational customers) who want this bill to pass should reach out to their legislators immediately. July 11 is the last day of the legislative session and if temporary sales are going to happen, this bill will have to be approved in the next few weeks. Until then, I will continue to update on the possibility of early recreational sales here in Oregon.