SALEM — All adults in Oregon could purchase limited amounts of pot from medical marijuana dispensaries starting Oct. 1, under a bill on its way to the state Senate.
The marijuana industry pushed for lawmakers to allow earlier dispensary sales, since Oregonians age 21 and older can legally possess recreational marijuana starting on Wednesday. The state’s new recreational marijuana system will not launch until sometime in 2016, so lawmakers have been searching for an interim solution to encourage people to stop buying pot on the black market.
But lawmakers on a House-Senate committee said they could not guarantee that the full House and Senate would pass the bill, if the start date for the temporary recreational sales from dispensaries were earlier than Oct. 1. Senate Bill 460, which passed out of the committee Thursday, would allow recreational customers to purchase cannabis seeds, plants that are not flowering and up to one-quarter ounce of marijuana flowers or leaves.
Also on Thursday, the Oregon House passed a bill to replace the harvest tax on pot in Measure 91 — the initiative voters passed in November to legalize marijuana — with a 17 percent sales tax intended to generate roughly the same amount of revenue. A state economist said last week the change could result in cheaper marijuana, because the tax would not factor into markups, and might ultimately raise more tax revenue than the harvest tax.
The bill dealing with recreational pot sales at dispensaries calls for the Oregon Health Authority to adopt rules to implement the temporary sales.
Cities and counties could opt out of the early sales, even if local officials decided not to ban pot businesses in the long run.
Sam Chapman, a marijuana lobbyist and business consultant, pleaded with lawmakers on Thursday morning to allow medical pot dispensaries to sell to recreational customers as soon as a bill would pass the Legislature. Between medical marijuana patients and designated caregivers, more than 100,000 Oregonians can already purchase products — including the full array of marijuana laced sodas, baked goods and candies — from medical marijuana dispensaries and Chapman said they will face increased pressure from their friends to illegally share these products starting July 1.
“It’s a dangerous situation for patients,” Chapman said.