Retailers welcome Oregon legalization with trepidation

Oregonians can now legally consume pot, and many are traveling to Clark County to buy marijuana

Ramsey Hamide MSM2

As the fledgling new marijuana industry picks up speed and jumps legislative hurdles in Washington, legislation across the river is still an unknown. Oregonians can now legally consume marijuana, as of July 1, but the state has yet to legalize sales of the drug. Senate Bill 460 is currently on Governor Kate Brown’s desk and will determine the fate of marijuana users, growers and sellers from Oregon and Washington. If approved, October 1 will kick off legal sales in Oregon. If vetoed, that date will be pushed to October of 2016.

“The impact to our business will really depend on when the start of legal sales in Oregon is,” said Ramsey Hamide, owner of Main Street Marijuana. “If it is October of this year, we are looking at a situation where the dispensaries in Oregon are going to open with an extremely, extremely bumpy start.”

Many Washington stores faced the hurdles currently projected in Oregon – supply shortages, massive price fluctuations due to taxation changes, fear of federal oversight and more.

Despite these challenges, Vancouver stores have seen steadily increasingly sales. Many see between 30-50 percent of their daily customers coming from across the river. Main Street sees 50 percent of its business from non-Washington residents, which includes customers from 30-40 different states and 10-15 different countries per week.

“I think we’re going to stay competitive for the time being, at least for the next year,” said Hamide. “Either way, you won’t be able to purchase edible, waxes, oils and concentrates in Oregon and those are all really popular.”

Main Street Marijuana has built a loyal customer base, which has paid off – both for the company, and for taxpayers. Hamide estimates that his company’s sales from month of July alone will bring $60,000 in taxes to Clark County – and $780,000 in taxes to Washington State.

Other Vancouver stores are taking community contribution seriously as well. Morgan Hutchinson’s High End Market Place is one of the first marijuana stores to be a part of the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m really proud to be part of that,” she said. “We’re looking to become part of other community organizations here in downtown as well.”

High End Market Place, which is located in a commercially zoned house, is focused on educating consumers and selling highly-sustainable marijuana. Hutchinson visits all the facilities her store grows from and hopes responsible grow practices will not falter in the face of high demand.

“It’s a great thing that legalization has done to make people aware of what they’re consuming,” she said. “I’m hoping that will continue across the bridge and that people will still be interested in where their weed is coming from, just like they’re beginning to be more interested in where their food comes from and what chemicals they’re consuming.”

Changes coming down from Olympia are only helping strengthen regulations on quality and price. Senate Bill 2136, which took effect July 1, will allow local marijuana stores to lower prices and close in on the black market, potentially pushing it out of the state.

“Prices have already come down so drastically in the last year that the black market is facing problems,” said Hamide. “Our goal is for price cuts of 25-50 percent here in the next three to six months.”

Main Street plans to offer grams starting at $5 and ounces starting $99, which will put the shop significantly below black market prices. This, too, will attract Oregon consumers from potentially high taxation and other pitfalls that early sales operations in Washington faced last year.

“Any time a new industry emerges, there’s going to be a new challenge every single day,” said Hutchinson. “Oregon has a huge opportunity to make some really great decisions, learn from Washington and move together, which is ultimately better for the consumer.”

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