Oregon is about to join the growing list of 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that that have legalized the sale of marijuana in some form. As Oregon preps for pot sales, many of the state's medical marijuana dispensaries are getting ready to open their doors for the first time on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. According to Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), approximately 345 dispensaries have already applied for permission to begin pot sales.
"More than 200 of Oregon's medical marijuana dispensaries have notified the Oregon Health Authority of plans to sell recreational marijuana starting Thursday."He added that some dispensaries may not qualify to open immediately if they are still going through the application process and have not been granted official approval.
Oregon passed Measure 91 in November of 2014. The law made it legal to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana for personal (also known as recreational) use beginning July 1 of this year. Although a 25 percent tax on retail sales of recreational pot won't begin until January 4, 2016, the government is permitting medical dispensaries to conduct early sales of marijuana tax free to discourage black market activity.
According to the new Oregon law, adults who are over the age of 21 may purchase up to a quarter ounce of bud between now and January 4, when candy bars, brownies, extracts, concentrates, and other marijuana-infused products will also hit shelves. To buy weed, customers simply have to present a valid, government-issued photo ID. Also, customers are only permitted to buy pot once per day at a dispensary.
Lois Pariseau, who opened Portland's Gras Cannabis dispensary four months ago, says business is already showing signs of picking up, with "a lot of people" coming into the shop recently to ask when sales will start.
"We're hoping it's really busy. Gras Cannabis has been advertising, including two local alternative newspapers and on two giant billboards in the city."As Oregon preps to make pot sales legal, there is another unexpected perk for anyone with a record of marijuana-related charges, the New York Times reported. Starting in 2016, prior felony marijuana convictions from the past, including the manufacturing and sale of pot in Oregon, will be eligible for record sealing. Specifically, one new law says that when considering an application for records clearing, the courts must use the current standards of law, which have made possessing, growing and sales of pot legal. A second new law permits the courts to expedite record-clearing for anyone who was under the age of 21 when convicted. According to Leland R. Berger, a Portland attorney who specializes in marijuana law, Oregon is at the forefront of reform in the U.S.
"In criminal law reform on marijuana, Oregon has gone further than anyone else."Oregon has also taken a progressive stance on how to deal with drivers who are impaired by marijuana. While states like Washington and Colorado require police to administer a blood test to any driver suspected of smoking pot before getting behind the wheel, Oregon has opted to permit police officers to decide whether a person is too high to operate a vehicle.
According to the New York Times, as Oregon preps for Thursday's shift, officials hope to compete with the still-illegal unregulated pot sales that are going on throughout the state by offering comparable prices for a legal product that is inspected and monitored.
States that have voted to legalize marijuana for medical and/or recreational use include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, according to an interactive map on Governing.
[Photos by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images]