October 1: Early Sales of Marijuana to Adults 21 and Older Begin in Oregon

Press Release September 29, 2015
Media Contact

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<p>Tony Newman (646)335-5384<br />
Tamar Todd (510) 593-2395</p>

Beginning October 1st, adults 21 and older will be able to legally purchase marijuana at existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Possession of marijuana became legal under state law on July 1, 2015, but adults have had no legal way to purchase marijuana until now. Adults may now legally purchase marijuana at existing medical marijuana dispensaries until state regulators are ready to allow licensed retail outlets to open, most likely in the latter half of 2016.

Oregon voters passed Measure 91 in November 2014 with 56% support. Similar to initiatives in both Washington and Colorado, Measure 91 called for a slow and thoughtful roll-out of legalization. In Washington and Colorado, possession of marijuana became legal over a year before retail sales began. This, too, was the path in Oregon until lawmakers passed new legislation this summer. Possession became legal on July 1, 2015, yet the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the state agency responsible for taxing, licensing, and regulating commercial recreational marijuana, will not begin accepting applications until early next year and retail stores are not expected to open until late 2016.

This approach left adults with no lawful means of purchasing marijuana. Adults 21 and older could legally possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana at home and 1 ounce of marijuana in public, and grow up to 4 plants. Under Senate Bill 460, signed by Gov. Kate Brown this summer, adults 21 and over will be able to purchase up to 7 grams of marijuana, seeds, and four immature plants at a medical marijuana dispensary. Adults will not be able to purchase edibles until the recreational retail stores are up and running.

“Allowing adult users to legally purchase marijuana from tightly regulated dispensaries will keep adult users from turning to the illicit market,” said Tamar Todd, Director of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Rather than fighting the will of the voters, Oregon lawmakers have passed sensible reform that is in step with the intent of Measure 91.”

Any current medical marijuana dispensary may now sell recreational marijuana as long as they register with the Oregon Health Authority, the agency in charge of regulating dispensaries and early sales. Cities and counties still retain the power to prohibit sales in their jurisdiction. More than half of the state’s dispensaries have registered to sell recreational marijuana. There will be no tax on recreational marijuana until January 4, 2016, at which point a 25 percent sales tax will go into effect. Some dispensaries expect their sales to double.

DPA was the single largest donor to Oregon’s Measure 91 campaign and was deeply involved in the measure’s drafting and on-the-ground campaign.  Voters in several states, including California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Ohio, Nevada and Maine, are expected to consider marijuana legalization initiatives at the ballot in 2015 and 2016.

As support for marijuana reform increases and attitudes shift, the Drug Policy Alliance is encouraging news outlets to use images that accurately reflect modern-day marijuana consumers and has released free, open-license stock photos and B-roll footage for editorial use.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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