Recreational marijuana goes on sale today in the state of Oregon. Oregon is the third state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for recreational use following Colorado and its northern neighbor Washington State.
Personal recreational use of marijuana has been legal in Oregon since July 1, 2015. Medical use has been legal since 1998. Today is the first day that it is legal to sell marijuana in Oregon under a regulated system. At present, only dispensaries -- outlets which had formerly been solely committed to distribution of marijuana for medical uses -- are permitted to sell marijuana, pending the release of a system for regulating outlets solely devoted to distributing marijuana for purely recreational use.
At present, marijuana edibles and liquid concentrates, which are currently available in Washington and Colorado, will not be available in Oregon until the Liquor Control Commission launches its regulated market. The state is still fine-tuning what permits and rules will pertain to that marketplace.
Private citizens over the age of 21 in Washington and Colorado are allowed to possess one ounce of marajuana, which is roughly equivalent to 60 average-sized joints. In Colorado, you can only purchase seven grams -- or a quarter ounce -- at a time. In Oregon, adults will be legally permitted to possess up eight ounces each household is allowed to grow up to four plants. Yield from each marijuana plants vary, of course, but experts say that a yield of roughly five ounces per plant can be expected for families who tend to their crop indoors and up to 17.5 ounces per plant if the marijuana is grown outdoors in ideal conditions.
From the state government's point of view, one of the primary benefits of legalizing marijuana for recreational use is the additional tax revenue it will create. In Oregon, marijuana will remain untaxed through the end of the year to stimulate pot-related tourism. On January 4, taxes on marijuana sold for recreational use will go into effect. Pot intended for recreational use will be taxed at 25 percent through 2016, after that Oregon's tax on the substance will drop to 17 to 20 percent as compared to the 37 percent tax on marijuana in Washington. Colorado has a tax of roughly 28 percent.
In addition to revenue, decriminalization of marijuana saves the state billions. States with population-sizes comparable to Washington (seven million) and Oregon (four million) -- Indiana (6.5 million) and Iowa (3.1 million), for example -- spend $2.35B (IN) and $1.2B (IA) on marijuana enforcement annually.
The tax burden is lowest in Oregon, so Fox News asked, "Is marijuana cheaper in Oregon?"
In Portland, dispensaries are distributing marijuana for $7 to $12 a gram with no tax. In Colorado, marijuana costs slightly more than $10 per gram. In Seattle, marijuana costs about $12 per gram. Once Oregon's taxes kick in, in other words, the price of weed in all of these locations will be roughly comparable.
In Colorado, marijuana sales generated about $53 million in tax-revenue in 2014. Washington state brought in about $63 million from marijuana sales. The populations of Washington, Oregon, and Colorado are pretty close to one another. Washington has about seven million residents, whereas Colorado 5.3 million and Oregon has about four million residents. Oregon is projecting annual tax revenue from marijuana somewhere around $18 million per year, much lower than Washington and Colorado.
So how is Oregon planning to spend all this extra revenue?
Here's how Oregon intends to spend the revenue collected from selling weed out of dispensaries, according to the government website.
- 40 percent to Common School Fund
- 20 percent to Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services
- 15 percent to State Police
- 10 percent to Cities for enforcement of the measure
- 10 percent to Counties for enforcement of the measure
- 5 percent to Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention
- Eliminate the problems caused by the prohibition and uncontrolled manufacture, delivery, and possession of marijuana within this state;
- Protect the safety, welfare, health, and peace of the people of this state by prioritizing the state's limited law enforcement resources in the most effective, consistent, and rational way;
- Permit persons licensed, controlled, regulated, and taxed by this state to legally manufacture and sell marijuana to persons 21 years of age and older, subject to the provisions of this Act;
- Ensure that the State Department of Agriculture issues industrial hemp licenses and agricultural hemp seed production permits in accordance with existing state law;
- Establish a comprehensive regulatory framework concerning marijuana under existing state law.
[The featured image of marijuana plants growing in Oregon used at the top of this article is courtesy Uriel Sinai & Getty Images]