Oregon Cannabis Guide 2016

That Show About the Weed Guy

Web Series High Maintenance Makes a Successful Transition to HBO

Cannabuzz: Just Don't Call It a Bud and Breakfast

A Look at the Cannabis-Friendly North Fork 53 Homestead

Read the 2016 Oregon Cannabis Guide!

Your Annual Mini-Magazine About All Things Weed Has Arrived

Cannabuzz: Weed Reads

What to Read Before—and After—You Get High

Ask a Pot Lawyer: How to Get Your Weed Worker Permit

It’s Not Hard, But You’ll Need to Study Up—and Pony Up

Weed Begins at 40

How I Got Back into the Pot Game

Ask a Pot Lawyer: Are We Headed Toward "Big Canna"?

Are Giant Marijuana Companies on the Way?

It’s Like a Humidor for Your Weed

We Tried Out the Cannador Storage System

My Roommate, the Weed Chemist

A Conversation with Green Leaf Lab About Canna Science

The Future of Oregon's Weed Industry

Our Cannabis Programs Are the Best in the Country

The Stoner Games

Perfect Summer Games to Play Under the Influence of Weed

How to be High in Public

(Don't Actually Do Any of These Things)

The Cannabis Issue 2016

The Mercury Cannabis Issue

Year One: So Far, Sooooo Good!

Four Ways to Use Weed Other Than Getting High

Here's Why Marijuana Advocates Are Excited About Its Many Uses

You Have to Come Out of the Pot Closet

If You Want Public Perceptions About Pot to Change

The Future of Oregon's Weed Industry

Our Cannabis Programs Are the Best in the Country

Confessions of a Hard-Working Unionized Stoner

I'm Proud to Be a Union Man and a Pot Smoker

I Love Weed! :) But I Hate Stoner Culture :(

How Other People Have Ruined My Favorite Pastime

Weed and Ladies: A Handbook for Women

The Cannabis World Is Hella Male-Dominated. This Gendered How-To Won't Solve That.

Our Topicals Trial Test!

We Attempt to Rub the Pain Away with Cannabis Balms and Salves

In the Pot Seat with Ted Wheeler

The Mayoral Candidate Answers Our Most Pressing Weed Questions

A Suppository That Transforms That Time of the Month

Our Informal Study Shows Very Promising Results

How to Say "Nah" Without Being a Buzzkill

'People Who Don't Smoke Weed Can Have Fun, Too!

WHEN THE MERCURY put out its last weed issue ["The High Life," Feature, April 15, 2015] exactly one year ago, recreational marijuana was not yet legal in Oregon. Measure 91 had passed and everyone was anxiously awaiting July, when adults 21 and older could legally possess weed for personal use. At the time, we knew that the legislature would enact laws to implement Measure 91 in the summer, and that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) would be running the administrative show. Really, that was all we knew.

Measure 91, like most initiatives, was voted for by many people, but actually read by very few. While the initiative was quite specific in how it articulated the recreational program, subsequent legislation brought some big surprises. Some of these were unfortunate, like the ability of cities and counties to opt out of recreational marijuana altogether, and, nearly as controversial, the short-lived residency requirement for owners of pot businesses. Other surprises were welcome, like early sales to recreational customers through existing medical dispensaries. No doubt many Oregonians will always remember where they were on October 1, 2015.

That date in particular was decades in the making. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize weed in small amounts, way back in 1973. We have had a medical marijuana program since 1998, and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has run its Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program since 2013. By today's standards, both of those programs were primitively structured and lightly regulated. Like the 1973 law, the basic idea of the registry program was to protect brave souls from criminal liability, with no consideration to markets. That will not be the case going forward. While the new regime takes federal prohibition into account, the balance of rulemaking addresses economic realities here in Oregon.

It is hard to see around corners, although people often ask their lobbyists, legislators, and lawyers to do exactly that. So here is a forecast of how Oregon's programs will ultimately look: In the very big picture, the state will continue to push the medical and recreational programs together. This is already happening piecemeal; it started when the legislature tinkered with the medical program last summer, and continued most recently with last month's Senate Bill 1511, which allows recreational licensees to serve the medical market. The reason a full-on merger has not already happened is probably only political. Inevitably, it will happen.

If you've spent much time around Oregon's pot industry, you know that many people are extraordinarily protective of Oregon's medical marijuana programs, for good reason: The rights of growers and patients were hard won and people acclimatized to the warm gray market. Stepping back, though, it is axiomatic that "medical" marijuana never would have existed as a program if weed had been legal from the start. Today weed is legal in Oregon, yet two different state agencies govern one plant. That seems kind of strange.

Most medical pot operators I work with are moving (and sprinting) into the recreational market. The legislature has created bridges to expedite that process. There has been some painful duplication during this period, though; for example, the requirement for medical processors to pay $4,000 for an OHA license and another $5,000 for an OLCC license. Those costs will ultimately be pushed down to consumers, including patients with OHA cards. To some extent, that could continue even after the programs are fully built out.

Except for administrators, nobody likes administrative bloat. And nobody freaked out when the co-location bill recently passed. In fact, the reaction was quite the opposite. If and when the programs do eventually merge, a key legislative mandate will be safeguarding the ability of individuals with debilitating medical conditions to access weed. We see in the new provision that OHA patients can buy weed tax-free at recreational shops (SB 1511); the creation of nonprofit medical dispensaries that can receive free pot and give it away to impoverished people (SB 1598); and the recently reduced cost of a medical card for vets (HB 4014).

Assuming the programs merge, there is going to be a lot of triage, consolidation, litigation, guesswork, and general ups and downs. To a degree, all of this is already happening in the market. It will happen even faster as national and international investment money streams into the state, and it will accelerate again when federal prohibition ends. The saying "change is the only constant" is perfectly applied in the case of legal marijuana markets.

Sometimes, when the rules are changing so quickly that even lawyers have a hard time keeping up, it's tempting to throw up your hands in total exasperation. As surprising as it may sound, though, Oregon's marijuana programs are shaping up to be the best in the country. My law firm works with cannabis ventures nationwide, and the core principles of Oregon's efforts—low barriers to entry, no cap on licenses, no restrictions on investment, and encouragement of service providers—exist almost nowhere else. In a couple of years, we are going to look back and be very proud of our unified program.

Vince Sliwoski is a lawyer at Harris Moure. Read his Ask a Pot Lawyer column every week in the Portland Mercury.