AS YOU READ THIS, it's legal to smoke pot (in private) in Oregon. Carry up to an ounce of it in public without fear of angering the lawman! Go ahead and sculpt baroque figures out of up to a half-pound in your own home, then send pictures to the district attorney's office!
The possibilities are intriguing, but there's one huge glitch in the system as it stands today: There's practically no way to legally obtain the buds you can legally possess. Unless you're buddies with someone who grows pot and is cool with giving you some, you'll be flouting the law just by copping. You're allowed to grow up to four plants in your home, of course, but there's currently not a legal way to get ahold of young plants or seeds.
"We're not giving [voters] a legal path to what is legal next week," said Oregon Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) at a June 25 hearing of the joint committee mulling recreational marijuana rules.
"I can't argue with that," replied Senator Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), who co-chairs the committee.
Help could be on the way. The legislature is considering a bill that would allow Oregonians to purchase up to a quarter ounce of pot from the medical marijuana dispensaries that have been sprouting up all over the city. But that wouldn't begin until October, and as of press time it still has to find approval from the full House and Governor Kate Brown.
If it fails, you'll likely be waiting for another year or more before the Oregon Liquor Control Commission rolls out a recreational dispensary system.
But maybe you don't want to wait. Pot is legal today, and damn it, you deserve to experience the market in all its fullness right now. Go for it, we say. You're just going to have to tweak federal law a bit by bringing a deeply illegal drug (in the feds' eyes) across state lines.
To Vancouver you go!
"It's a good time to be a marijuana consumer," says Ramsey Hamide, owner of Vancouver's first pot shop, Main Street Marijuana. "You're going to have two states with two regulated markets and two unique sets of products. It's like no other place in the world."
For now, though, you're stuck with Washington's pot marketplace, which isn't what it used to be. When Vancouver's first two marijuana shops opened up last summer, Washington's poorly planned rollout of the industry led to a severe shortage in product, leading to angry accusations of gouging, meteoric prices, and worries the whole experiment would collapse ["Supply and the Man," Feature, Sept 3, 2014].
That famine was followed by a glut of product earlier this year, which has helped prices. Additional pot shops in Southwest Washington have also assisted, adding an element of competition.
But Washington's pot taxes are still onerous—a whopping 25 percent at three separate points in the supply chain—and the state loves its sales taxes.
Translation: If you're headed north for your pot, it's still not going to come cheap. Pot in Portland's medical dispensaries can sell for as low as $6 a gram (which would be $7.50 a gram under a 25 percent tax legislators are considering). Vancouver's recreational stores typically get their product out for roughly $15 a gram, once taxes are figured in, though retailers often run specials.
"There's not much lower we can go in terms of offering the quality that we are," says Morgan Hutchinson, owner of Vancouver's High End Market Place, which opened in January.
The biggest thing to recommend the Washington market at this point? Variety. These are shops that sell edibles and vape oils and marijuana-tinged topical ointments. Again, it ain't cheap, but it's a bigger menu than you're going to get from the black market, and medical dispensaries—even if they do get permission to sell to the wider public—won't be able to offer them.
Things might be set to get better in Washington, too—just in time for Oregon's legal weed experiment to begin. As of press time, the Washington Legislature had referred a change in the state's pot tax structure to Governor Jay Inslee. Rather than a three-tiered system, the state would levy a 37 percent tax at the point of sale, on top of typical sales taxes.
Both Hamide and Hutchinson expect the structure of the tax will result in a decreased federal tax burden (pot businesses can't deduct many of the expenses other businesses can), which could help the consumer.
"If they change the structure, all the prices will come down," Hutchinson says. "We just want to make really great chronic weed accessible."
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