After much speculation, it is official that existing Oregon medical marijuana dispensaries will sell cannabis to adults on October 1st. Licensed dispensaries will be able to provide up to 7 grams of cannabis flower to all adults starting on October 1st, as Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 460 into law today. The so-called Early Start Bill, SB 460, was initially championed by conservative Republican Senator Ted Ferrioli, as he deemed it imperative to provide regulated access to marijuana since the state legalized possession on July 1st. Democrats Floyd Prozanski and Peter Buckley were also early supporters and the bill went on to pass unanimously out of committee and with large, bipartisan margins out of both the Oregon Senate and House.
The bill, while good for the state in general, is a true godsend to the more than 300 medical marijuana dispensaries licensed in Oregon. The overall saturation of a market consisting of just over 70,000 patients, made staying in business very difficult for many facilities. “This is an important step to ensuring a smooth rollout of marijuana legalization in Oregon – and it will help grow our state’s small businesses and give consumers a safe place to buy cannabis,” Casey Houlihan, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Retailers Association (ORCA) told Marijuana Politics.
I met early in the session with both Sen. Ferrioli and Sen. Prozanski to discuss the passage of such a bill and thought that the bill was a long-shot, but an important one that we never stopped advocating for; I am so pleased that Governor Brown signed the bill into law. Demonstrating the broad bipartisan support of the bill, Senators Prozanski and Ferrioli carried the bill on the Senate floor while Republican Andy Olson and Democrat Ann Lininger carried the bill on the House floor. Anyone following politics in Oregon knows that the Democrats and Republicans championing the bill before their colleagues don’t agree on that many issues, but a sensible cannabis policy brought them together. Cannabis law reformers have seen first-hand that pragmatic marijuana policies seem to be one of the few issues that can bring Republicans and Democrats together across the political divide.
Now that SB 460 has been signed by Governor Brown, the Oregon Health Authority will develop rules that medical marijuana dispensaries must follow to ensure that they are only providing the proper amount of marijuana flowers to non-patients 21 years of age and older. Concentrates, extracts and marijuana-infused products can’t be legally sold to non-patients under SB 460. A state temporary license will be provided that runs from October 1, 2015, to December 31, 2016. Additionally, the Oregon Department of Revenue must formulate rules and procedures for taxation. All marijuana purchased will be tax-free until January 4, 2016; then non-patients will pay a 25% tax. We will have the latest up-to-date info on the October 1st rules at the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference on September 12-13.
Senate Bill 460 is a great bill for Oregon and the Oregon cannabis industry. It simply makes sense to provide a regulated establishment for adults to legally purchase cannabis as early as possible following the legalization of marijuana possession and cultivation. Cannabis consumers will be able to purchase marijuana that has been tested for potency, mold, mildew and pesticides; medical dispensaries are able to expand their customer base; Oregon will collect new marijuana tax revenue months earlier than expected; and Oregon businesses will receive new tourism dollars as Oregon, especially Portland, will become an even bigger vacation destination for cannabis consumers across the nation. This bill is simply a win-win-win-win and Senate Bill 460 is one bill that the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kate Brown should be commended for making a reality.