Pubdate: Fri, 02 Oct 2015
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Hal Bernton


PORTLAND - At 10 a.m. Thursday, the doors of the Pure Green 
dispensary opened for the first time to recreational sales, with 
staff ushering in customers waiting outside who could choose from two 
dozens strains of pot, and receive a free joint along with their 
first purchase.

Pure Green is one of 119 medical dispensaries scattered across 
Portland that as of Oct. 1 can sell marijuana to anyone over the age 
of 21. These dispensaries turn the city into a recreational pot 
mecca, where such outlets outnumber those that sell hard liquor, 
according to state regulatory agencies.

Collectively, they pose formidable competition for Main Street 
Marijuana, just across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash. Thanks 
in part to Oregon clientele, the shop has ranked as the top-grossing 
outlet in Washington.

"They have had a good run, and now it's our turn," said Matt 
Walstatter, the owner of Pure Green, which operates in a store front 
on Sandy Boulevard in Northeast Portland. "Oregon has a deep, rich 
cannabis culture here, and we have had for many years."

Oregon's entry into the recreational market comes at a time when 
Washington retailers are benefiting from a surge in supplies that has 
allowed them to cut prices. And owners of Main Street Marijuana, 
which grossed more than $2 million in August, are not ceding market 
shares without a fight.

Earlier this week, they cut prices by 25 percent, with most of their 
marijuana strains selling for $12 a gram, taxes included, which 
matched the Thursday price for the least-cost recreational offerings 
at Portland's PureGreen.

And prices are headed down further.

"There's a new harvest coming in, and a massive glut," said Adam 
Hamide, a co-owner of Main Street Marijuana. In a flier distributed 
to customers in the store Thursday, the store promoted some strains 
of marijuana that would go on sale Oct. 15 for less than $5 a gram.

The competition along the Columbia River comes as the national 
movement to legalize pot registers another step forward. For the 
first time, two adjacent states now have legal markets for recreational pot.

Oregon's move into recreational sales comes more than a year after 
Washington's began. Legalization in both states resulted from voter 
approval of initiatives.

But in Oregon, there has been a very different startup, as medical 
dispensaries registered through the state are allowed, on a temporary 
basis, to branch into recreational sales. This was approved by the 
Oregon Legislature earlier this year in a law that enables these 
outlets for the next 15 months to sell up to a quarter ounce of 
marijuana flowers to recreational users.

Walstatter, who lobbied for the legislation, says he hoped the law 
would throw the state's medical dispensaries an economic lifeline and 
also help undercut blackmarket sales while the Oregon Liquor Control 
Commission sets up a permanent program for regulating 
recreational-marijuana outlets. Those outlets will begin sales in October 2016.

To help kick off legal pot sales, the Oregon medical dispensaries 
also can sell the marijuana without any taxes until Jan. 1.

But medical dispensaries are only allowed to sell recreational users 
flowers, and not the extracts, candies, juices and other edible 
offerings. At Pure Green, they are now placed at the far end of the 
dispensary reserved for holders of Oregon medicalmarijuana cards.

Jack Gibson, a Portland writer and filmmaker who had previously 
purchased pot in Vancouver, was one of the first customers on 
Thursday to visit PureGreen. He thought the prices were reasonable 
and was impressed by the service.

"I think the quality is great, and I like having a shop owner who 
works on the medical side because they are going to be more 
knowledgeable. "In Vancouver, there is more of an in-and-out, selling 

But there are plenty of people who find the bustle of the Main Street 
shop on Vancouver to be a big draw, with offerings that include 
dozens of different strains of marijuana flowers, as well as edibles 
still off-limits in recreational sales in Oregon.

On Thursday, hundreds of people through the course of the day surged 
into Main Street Marijuana. But Portland recreational sales did 
appear to have some impact Thursday.

Ed Givens, Main Street's budmaster, said that the lunchtime surge was 
lighter than normal.

Still, he was hopeful for a future.

Givens said that the drop in pot prices has broadened the clientele 
to include more young people who once bought on the black market but 
now find legal recreational marijuana more affordable.

And he looks forward to serving the marijuana tourists.

"My feeling is that our little shop has become a destination point," 
Givens said. "I see people from all over the country. New York City 
and the South ... I'm going to guess that we're going to continue to 
stay busy. "
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom