Making sense of what's legal Oct. 1 | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Making sense of what's legal Oct. 1

There are many paradoxes in cannabis law. The biggest, of course, is the federal government's policy that cannabis is "dangerous" and "has no medicinal value" and the state's policy, courtesy of the people, that cannabis may be used as medicine and may be otherwise consumed without substantial harm.

Our local paradox, which we discussed last week, is that you cannot purchase cannabis in certain cities and counties, but you can consume cannabis in your home anywhere in Oregon (except, presumably, on federal land). Oregon's latest cannabis store ban victim is Klamath County.

This ban perfectly illustrates the self-defeating nature of local prohibitionism. Rather than buy their cannabis in stores owned by locals, Klamath County residents will now be driving to places like Bend to buy their cannabis, just as Portland residents now drive to Vancouver, Washington.

And since that's a two-hour drive, those folks will likely be purchasing a meal, or a pint, or some fuel, doing some shopping, and perhaps even staying the night in Bend. Thus it seems that Visit Bend owes the Klamath County Commissioners a nice thank-you letter for all of the income they just put in the Bend economy (at the expense of their own).

The next paradox of cannabis law in Oregon is about to become apparent on October 1, when Oregon's recreational cannabis sales begin. This is another situation that comes to us courtesy of a legislative "fix," and it's known as "temporary early sales."

The idea was that the OLCC needs time to get its recreational cannabis business licensing rules in place, but in the meantime people want to buy cannabis since it's now legal. But since we don't want people to (continue to) buy on the black market, Oregon is attempting to make use of existing cannabis stores—medical marijuana dispensaries—to sell cannabis to everyone over 21. But only temporarily. Or maybe not. Here's how it will work:

Starting on October 1, you can go to any medical marijuana dispensary electing to sell recreational cannabis and purchase up to a quarter-ounce of bud, seeds, and non-flowering plants. But you cannot purchase any other type of cannabis product, including edibles, because that would be just too dangerous right now.

The strangest part of all this is the tax. Between October 1, 2015 and January 4, 2016, there will be no tax on recreational cannabis sales. Starting January 5, your recreational cannabis will come with a 25 percent sales tax, creating a huge overnight jump in price. So, stock up, I guess.

Incidentally, this 25 percent sales tax will be by far the largest sales tax in Oregon. How strange is that for a state with no general sales tax? Even stranger? The tax rate at licensed recreational stores will be 17 percent, or up to 20 percent if the local jurisdiction adds its own tax. And if you think Bend won't add that tax, I have some great real estate opportunities I'd like to share with you.

Sometime in 2016, the OLCC will start issuing licenses for recreational cannabis stores. This will then give us three types of cannabis stores in Oregon: medical-only, medical-and-recreational, and recreational-only. Thankfully, the stores will be required to display signs saying what they sell.

But, for some unknown reason, there will be no permanent co-licensing of medical and recreational cannabis businesses in Oregon (unlike in Colorado). So when the early sales program ends on December 31, 2016, businesses will have to choose one revenue stream or the other. By then maybe we will all be so stoned that some of this will seem to make sense.

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