Oregon's Medical Marijuana Shops Are Going Recreational

The state's Dec. 1, 2016, deadline forced medical marijuana shops to decide if they wanted to pay a fee to remain a medical marijuana dispensary, or transition to the recreational marijuana business. 

Oregon's medical marijuana shops had a tough choice to make by December: maintain their medical dispensary status and attempt to compete against the growing number of recreational sellers, or join their ranks.

Marijuana merchants needed to register by December 1st the with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) for recreational sales or register with the state as a patient growing the plant for themselves.

It wasn't an easy decision for owners of medical marijuana shops.

Recreational Marijuana Changed the Game for Medical Marijuana Shops

Until recreational pot was legalized in mid-2015, medical marijuana shops were the only place consumers with medical cards were able to purchase cannabis. Since then, however, as the number of recreational stores have multiplied across the state, medical dispensaries have seen their customer base plummet.

One medical dispensary owner told the Registry Guard he had only sold $58 worth of product by mid-afternoon, and planned to register as a recreational seller with the state, citing the decision as a financial one.

The Differences Between Selling Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana dispensaries that register with the OMMP are required to use the Cannabis Tracking System and pay a fee of $480 to use it. They can sell medicinal marijuana to recreational shops, but are restricted to a 20 pound limit.

For users of medical marijuana, their prescription cards, which cost up to $200, allow them to avoid paying state and local taxes on purchases, which can be up to 20 percent. They can purchase medical marijuana from either recreational or medical marijuana shops, negating the need to seek out medical-only dispensaries.

According to Oregon.gov, medical dispensaries pay about $4,000 in application and registration fees, while recreational marijuana licensing fees vary and range up to $6,000. There are no limits on the number of recreational licenses a licensee may hold.

Attorney General Throws Wrench in Marijuana Oasis

On Jan. 4, 2018 Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice planned to rescind the prior White House administration's stance on marijuana in states that have voted to legalize it, either for medical or recreational purposes.

In a memo, Sessions wrote that nothing had changed in regards to the federal government's stance on the legality of cannabis, and the department would no longer turn a blind eye from the law in states that had legalized it.

“These statutes reflect Congress’s determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime,” he wrote.

According to the Register Guard, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the state would honor the will of the people who voted, adding the recreational marijuana industry had added 19,000 jobs to the economy.

Voters in Oregon were clear when they chose for Oregon to legalize the sale of marijuana, and the federal government should not stand in the way of the will of Oregonians,” Brown said. “My staff and state agencies are working to evaluate reports of the attorney general’s decision and will fight to continue Oregon’s commitment to a safe and prosperous recreational marijuana market.”

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