Recreational marijuana users in Oregon will have fewer places to legally buy cannabis starting in January.
Oregon voters approved recreational marijuana use for adults in 2014, but there was no place to legally buy it until October of the following year. That's when a law kicked in that allowed existing medical dispensaries to sell to people without medical marijuana cards.
That system gave the state time to set up a separate licensing system for recreational stores — administrated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission — but the law allowing it expires at the end of this month.
Andre Ourso, manager of the medical marijuana program at the Oregon Health Authority, said medical dispensaries that continue to sell to recreational users could face fines, starting at $500 per violation.
"We will have a presence in the field and we will be dropping in and doing some spot checks on medical dispensaries to make sure that they are only selling to cardholders," said Ourso.
The change will affect more than 300 dispensaries.
As of mid-December there are fewer than 100 OLCC licensed recreational marijuana retailers in Oregon. That number is expected to grow as more medical dispensaries apply for and are granted recreational retail licenses.
Businesses with recreational licenses — known as retail stores under the OLCC program, not dispensaries — can sell to medical marijuana patients, including some products that are not legal on the recreational market.
Medical marijuana dispensaries aren't likely to disappear entirely, however. In some parts of Oregon, local regulations prohibit recreational sales but allow medical sales.