Oregon officials completed their first week of registration for the state’s newly legal medical marijuana dispensaries, and nearly 300 applied.
Officials said 281 MMJ shops registered with the state to serve patients under the new program, approved by the legislature last year.
That’s a smaller number than the 289 initially reported, a figure that included duplicate applications, said Karynn Fish, spokeswoman for the dispensary program. Also, some applicants withdrew.
Most of the applications were filed in Multnomah County, the seat of Portland. One hundred twenty-nine prospective dispensaries applied to open shop there. Lane County, the spot with the next-highest number of applicants, produced 39.
Oregon voters approved medical marijuana in 1998, two years after California became the first state to do so. But the original law, the Medical Marijuana Act, only allowed patients to get their weed by growing it or using the services of a collective caregiver.
No sales were allowed, however. That left many patients struggling to cultivate a difficult crop that demands constant attention, heavy use of electricity and large amounts of water. Many MMJ patients simply aren’t equipped to grow cannabis for regular use.
Finally, in 2013, after 15 years of medical weed, Oregon lawmakers approved a program that will allow dispensaries to operate in the state. The law directed the Oregon Health Authority to draw up a registry of pot shops, which are subject to security and testing regulations.
Dispensaries must also keep careful records of the pot that enters and leaves their stores. State regulators will inspect each shop yearly.
MMJ shops already do business in Oregon, though they’re technically illegal. In some areas, especially rural counties and the southern part of the state, officials have cracked down on illicit shops while in others, such as Portland, they’ve largely looked the other way.
Dispensaries have been a cause of tension in many states with medical weed, from California to Massachusetts. A growing number of states are allowing them, though, as the necessities of patient access become clear.
California, for example, has been at war over pot shops since the early 2000s, when a new law allowed them to flourish. The problems with the shops there have fueled staunch opposition to MMJ and legalization, in California and elsewhere.
Even so, Oregon, Massachusetts, Arizona and other states have passed laws allowing medical pot dispensaries. The shops in Oregon should open soon.
What’s more, the state is considered a good bet to legalize recreational weed this year. Lawmakers passed up a chance to refer the matter to voters in the November election, but two advocacy groups are pushing independent initiatives they’re confident they can get on the ballot.