It's been a loooooong few weeks getting ready to launch "Weed the People" with the Mercury (hit weedthepeoplepdx.com for your tickets now!). I've been visiting all kinds of canna-businesses to inform them about the event, to get word out to the growers who want to participate, and—as all those porta-potties need to be paid for—seeking vendors and sponsors.
My conversations with the staffs of medical dispensaries have been enlightening. All have expressed a fervent desire to see recreational cannabis sold as soon as possible in their dispensaries, yet many face serious financial difficulties. The common complaint is while there are more than 71,000 OMMP (Oregon Medical Marijuana Program) patients in Oregon, there are approximately 300 dispensaries statewide, with more than half of those in the tri-county area. That breaks down to a dispensary for every 230 patient cardholders, roughly. That might sound like decent odds, except that many patients have their own growers, or grow their medicine themselves, or procure their weed on the cheaper black, gray, and off-white markets. Placing an ad on Craigslist for your excess OMMP bud has far less overhead than the byzantine fees and taxes you must pay with a brick-and-mortar dispensary.
So it was a surprise when an employee at a dispensary (which I'm not naming because they do good work, and one person does not represent an entire organization) went off on me. It wasn't simply that I was shocked by how rude, self-righteous, and unprofessional she was, but because she was factually wrong. And in case there are others who follow her faulty logic, I'm going to examine her argument.
In brief, when I mentioned that every dispensary I had spoken to wanted to see recreational sales begin ASAP, she glared at me and said, "That's not how we feel AT ALL. We want recreational sales to be delayed as long as possible, because we care about the patients."
I responded that I was an authorized OMMP caregiver, and that I cared about patients as well, and may I ask why she wanted a delay in recreational sales? Giving me what could charitably be called a withering stare that transmitted her desire to see me abused in some fashion, she spit out in her most patronizing tone, "Because what you don't seem to understand is there isn't enough medicine to supply both patients and recreational users, and if we start selling recreational cannabis in October, there won't be enough for our patients."
Yes, there will. In fact, we have plenty, angriest budtender I have ever met. (Here's an idea: Try smoking some weed.)
A 2014 study by Oregon State University estimated that "licensed medical marijuana growers produce three to five times more marijuana than Oregon's total estimated marijuana demand of about 140,000 pounds a year," according to the Register-Guard. That doesn't include the black market, and based on the number of people I know who are sending out vans full of weed to prohibitionist states, there is no shortage there either.
There are obstacles to initiating recreational sales at existing medical dispensaries by as early as October 1, as legislators have proposed. But it can be done. One thing remains certain: We are not short of cannabis in Oregon.