Business Questions Abound as Oregon Prepares for Rec Sales

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Will Oregon medical marijuana businesses have first dibs on recreational licenses? Will there be a cap set on the number of retail stores? When will the Oregon Liquor Control Commission start issuing business permits?

The short answer to all these questions and more is that there are no real answers. Yet.

The head of the five-member liquor control commission (OLCC) – which will spearhead the rule-making process – told the Oregonian on Wednesday that he intends to follow the new law and put together a marijuana policy that respects “Oregon’s way.” But what that precisely means is open to interpretation.

Still, Rob Patridge, chairman of the OLCC, did promise to take input from existing medical marijuana businesses and the general public.

The commission is planning on asking an emergency board in December for extra funding to hire 28 new staffers to help with the regulatory process – a signal that the commission is taking its task seriously. It has even already set up a website dedicated to updates on Measure 91’s implementation, and those interested can sign up for email blasts.

The OLCC has until January 2016 to establish rules and regulations for the industry and to start handing out business licenses, a timeline that mirrors the one that took place in Colorado after voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012. Recreational use and home grows will become fully legal next July.

It’s possible that the OLCC might finish writing regulations and issuing business licenses before 2016, but it’s still a wait-and-see situation.

One early estimate from the state indicated that the rec market likely won’t be driving the black market out of business. According to the Legislative Revenue Office, an ounce of legal rec marijuana will probably cost around $330, almost twice what the same amount costs to purchase illegally.