When recreational marijuana goes on sale Thursday in Oregon, Idaho residents won’t have an easy time finding legal buds for sale.
Sure, they can drive across the Snake River into Ontario easily enough. But they’ll have to keep traveling west another 260 miles — more than a four-hour trip one way — to Central Oregon to buy pot legally.
Even so, some Idahoans may be willing to make the trip.
“Bend is such a tourist destination town, so we do see people from Idaho anyway. With recreational use becoming legal I could see that definitely increase, just for the novelty of it,” said Abigail, the head budtender at High Grade Organics in Bend, in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I think that people will come over.”
Abigail, who declined to provide her last name, said her shop – located just off U.S. 97, the main drag through town – has seen increasing numbers of people walk in and call as Thursday has gotten closer. Some people do not realize that retail sales have not started, she said.
Oregon voters approved Measure 91 in November. In July, Oregonians could legally begin possessing personal amounts of marijuana and growing small numbers of plants. Retail sales weren’t supposed to start until January, but lawmakers approved a bill allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to begin retail sales Oct. 1 to discourage black-market sales.
But the lone medical marijuana dispensary in Ontario, 420ville, is not offering recreational marijuana. Nor are two in La Grande. Those three dispensaries are the only medical marijuana clinics east of Bend.
And things may not change much for Idahoans come January. Malheur County and three of its cities – Ontario, Vale and Nyssa – have passed ordinances prohibiting retail sales. A provision of the Oregon law allows such bans in counties and cities where at least 55 percent of voters opposed legalization.
Moreover, marijuana bought legally in Oregon cannot be taken out of the state, not even to Washington, which also allows the purchase of recreational marijuana. In Idaho, possession of up to 3 ounces of pot is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Retail sales will not be taxed until Jan. 4, when a 25 percent tax kicks in.
Under the law, adults 21 and older can buy a quarter-ounce of pot at a time, enough for about seven joints. But there’s nothing to prevent them from stocking up by going to several stores. A government-issued photo identification is required to provide proof of age.
More than 200 of Oregon’s 345 medical marijuana dispensaries, including nine in Bend, have notified the Oregon Health Authority of their intention to sell recreational marijuana.
Abigail said High Grade Organics, which has operated for two years, expects brisk sales. “We expect it to be very busy, based on the number of people who have called and who have come in,” she said.
People in Oregon can smoke marijuana in their homes or on private property. Public use remains illegal, as does lighting up in a hotel that prohibits smoking.
The Associated Press contributed.