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New marijuana law clears way for recreational, medical sales in same place

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - New legislation signed by Gov. Kate Brown clears the way for sales of recreational and medical marijuana in the same place.Oregonians will soon be able to buy medical and recreational marijuana from the same retailer and purchase low-dose edibles and extracts for recreational use, under legislation Gov. Kate Brown signed into law Thursday, March 24.

The Oregon Health Authority quickly issued a bulletin Thursday warning the marijuana industry to hold off on sales of recreational edibles and extracts until the agency has adopted temporary rules on serving size and potency.

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EO Media GroupThe rules are scheduled for completion in early April, Andre Ourso, manager of the medical marijuana program, wrote in the bulletin.

“We appreciate the opportunity to have edibles and extracts under the early sales program, and we look forward to working with the Oregon Health Authority to come up with rules,” said David McNicoll of the Oregon Responsible Edibles Council.

Voters made in 2015 Oregon the third state to legalize recreational marijuana. Starting Oct. 1, the early sales program, under the Oregon Health Authority, authorized already existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell up to 1½ ounces of dried marijuana to recreational customers. Edible and extracts were restricted to medical marijuana patients.

The Oregon Responsible Edibles Council and Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association lobbied lawmakers to change the definition of “limited marijuana retail product” to include low-dose edibles and extracts in early sales.

Senate Bill 1511, passed by the Legislature in February, opened the way for edible and extracts sales this spring and allowed retailers to continue to sell both medical and recreational cannabis out of one location.

The recreational marijuana law would have required retailers to choose between a medical or recreational registration at the close of early sales, which end Dec. 31. A majority of dispensary owners had indicated to marijuana regulators that they would defect to the recreational market at that time, fueling fears that medical patients might face a shortage of medical cannabis products. Retailers may sell marijuana to both medical patients and recreational users and are prohibited from collecting a tax on medical marijuana sales.

The law limits the sale of one serving of a low-dose edible per day and one “prefilled receptacle of an extract” per day and directs the Oregon Health Authority to adopt rules on THC-concentration and serving size limits on edibles and extracts. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in marijuana.

The law gives no definition for a low-dose or a single serving, McNicoll said. Oregon Health Authority has been considering a 5-milligram limit on recreational serving sizes of marijuana-infused foods, about half of what’s legal in Washington and Colorado — Oregon’s predecessors in recreational legalization. The agency has said it would set higher limits for medical edibles.

Marijuana industry advocates like McNicoll say that low of a dose would make the edible products less marketable because many recreational users need more potency to get high. A 5-milligram serving is “akin to a placebo effect,” he said.

“We would really like a compromise that still protects Oregonians,” McNicoll said.

Rob Hendrickson, associate medical director of the Oregon Poison Center, said 5 milligrams is plenty for recreational users. “The 5 milligrams makes the most sense,” Hendrickson said. “It’s equal to smoking marijuana. You’re getting 2-3 milligrams when you smoke it.”

That dosage also protects children who might get a hold of marijuana-infused foods, he said.

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