Oregonians who smoke marijuana have a unique new place to get it, as locals celebrated the opening of the state’s first cannabis farmers market.

The growers’ market drew big crowds of potheads, amateur growers, and vendors, a sign of explosive growth in the state’s young legal marijuana market. Oregon voters legalized cannabis for any adult use in 2014, along with Alaska and the District of Columbia. Colorado and Washington passed legalization two years earlier.

Among the big names at the new farmers market was Ed Rosenthal, a famed California-based activist known as the Guru of Ganja. Rosenthal prowled the exhibition hall at the fairgrounds after the farmers market opened, inspecting pot plants and ranking them for the competition.

Contestant plants were divided into three categories, with three winners in each category. The victors will be put on display at the State Fair for two weeks starting in late August.

A legal marketplace for cannabis cultivators

But the farmers market was just that – a legal, public marketplace for marijuana growers. It was not a festival, celebration, or expo dedicated to pot smoking. As a matter of fact, contest rules prohibited plants that had developed smokeable flower bud. Instead, Rosenthal and his fellow judges focused on the qualities of the plants themselves.

“The first thing is health and to make sure they don’t have infections and then to make sure they … don’t have nutrient deficiencies,” he said. “Then we look at the structure of the plant. Has it been getting as much sun as it should be getting? Is it sunburned?”

Ganja Guru’ Ed Rosenthal speaks with members of the press about his role in the Oregon Cannabis Growers’ Fair judging process.
Ganja Guru’ Ed Rosenthal speaks with members of the press about his role in the Oregon Cannabis Growers’ Fair judging process.The Oregon Cannabis Growers’ Fair launched Aug. 13 at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, and it was scheduled to end two days later. The centerpiece of the event was a contest for best pot plants, with the winners given a booth at the State Fair, which runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5.

The market provides a great opportunity for marijuana entrepreneurs to get their plants in front of other businesses, including dispensaries and cannabis processors. The competition doesn’t reward the potency of the plants but rather their value in breeding new strains.

Connecting the state’s young industry

Danny Grimm, who owns a pot farm in Oregon, said he entered his plants in the contest because it could help bring in new customers and expand his business, Uplifted.

“It’s great to put it on our portfolio and get publicity here and get our name out there,” Grimm said. “That is huge for the cannabis industry, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction for us. We’ve been waiting for this for years.”

Oregon Marijuana Farmers Market

Marijuana farmers markets are not a new idea. A similar market briefly operated in Seattle and other parts of Washington State but no longer operates there. That market was run mostly under the table, making it a target of local law enforcement. The Cannabis Growers’ Fair, by contrast, is legally affiliated with the Oregon State Fair.

“It is an historic event. It’s a great opportunity to meet these growers that typically were underground,” fair organizer Mary Lou Burton said. “We’re trying to get people connected up and networking.”

Donald Morse, a cultivator who conceived of the growers’ fair, said he and other organizers wanted fair-goers to leave with a more informed and realistic idea of what cannabis cultivation is really all about.

“It’s not to tempt people to use marijuana,” Morse said. “It is to educate. Cannabis is Oregon’s newest farm crop.”

What do you think: Would you go to a marijuana farmers market where you couldn’t buy weed? Leave a comment below.

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