The Twist of a Pen.

That’s all that remains to make medical marijuana dispensaries legal in Oregon.

The Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill on July 6 legalizing retail dispensaries after 15 years in which patients were required to grow their own pot or find someone else to do it for them. The legislation is a major win for medical marijuana advocates, who are securing the right to open dispensaries in a growing number of states. The bill now goes to Gov. John Kitzhaber for his signature. If it becomes law, it will make Oregon one of 14 states that allow the sale of medical marijuana from retail dispensaries. Nevada recently joined the list by enacting legislation legalizing dispensaries in that state.

Since Oregon voters first approved medicinal pot, patients there have been required to grow it themselves or find a grower, usually by way of a patients’ collective. Advocates have long said this arrangement created an unrealistic burden on already-sick patients. Under the new law, dispensaries will register and be licensed by the state. Retail weed shops already do business throughout Oregon, and in some areas, such as Portland and Multnomah County, they’re quietly allowed to operate. In others, however, they’re shut down and their operators arrested. The legislation will impose numerous restrictions on dispensaries. And it won’t prevent cities and municipalities from enforcing their own rules regarding medical marijuana.

Marijuana Laws in Oregon

The changes wouldn’t take effect until next year. The bill gives the Oregon Health Authority until March to draw up rules on a host of specific issues. Dispensaries will be barred within 1,000 feet of schools and within 1,000 of each other. They’ll be limited to farm and commercial zones, and a dispensary can’t be located in the same place as a grow facility. Operators must be Oregon residents, and anyone with a felony record for manufacturing or delivery of a controlled substance will be banned. Prices are at the discretion of dispensary operators, and may include the costs of “doing business, including costs related to transferring, handling, security, insuring, testing, packaging and processing usable marijuana and immature marijuana plants and the cost of supplies, utilities, rent or mortgage.” The same goes for payments made by operators to growers.

Oregon Dispensary Registration

Registration is expected to cost $4,000 a year. The state expects to rake in $900,000 over the first two years, which should pay for staff and expenses. Officials expect an additional four state employees will be hired to deal with dispensaries. Pot shops will be subject to inspection “at any reasonable time” for zoning compliance and other issues. And products will undergo regular testing for mildew, mold and pesticides. Medical marijuana in Oregon is restricted to patients suffering from severe pain, nausea and certain serious conditions such as epilepsy, HIV/AIDS and glaucoma. Voters approved the state’s current arrangement in 1998, then voted down two proposals to allow dispensaries.

But advocates never gave up, and they finally convinced the state Legislature to honor the needs of patients by letting them buy their medical marijuana from professional outlets.


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