Oregon continues to move forward, adjusting and evolving, with the fragile market of legal cannabis. While the cannabis industry is slowly reaping favor across North America, each state which has adopted a reformative policy towards cannabis – if only as a medical option – has remained more heterogeneous than similar in their marijuana policy and laws.
This is expected. After all, state governments often are meant to represent the interests of their population. One position many states do share, however, is that local and municipal governments may create further ordinances to protect the interests of their respective community within the state, including marijuana laws in Portland.
As the entire US (including Alaska) west coast is covered by recreational and medical marijuana laws, local ordinances have commonly been used to limit licensing of dispensaries, cultivation facilities, or product manufacturers; to levy additional taxes; to further limit at-home cultivation; limit hours of operation; or to ban the operation of marijuana business altogether.
State VS City: How does Portland measure up?
As is often the case with recreational and medical marijuana regulation, statewide laws provide the skeleton and the local city code breathes life into it. The interpretation of marijuana laws in Portland, legalizing medical and recreational cannabis in 1998 and 2014 respectively, has always closely mirrored the full extent of the voter-backed measure.
For instance, as of April 2017, it is reported nearly 90 cities and counties across Oregon have prohibited marijuana dispensaries, cultivation facilities, or product manufacturers to exist within their governmental domain. Portland has made no such effort. In fact, the city has so embraced the industry, the city council has created a charter group to independently review and recommend policy.
The Cannabis Policy Oversight Team is but one part of the city-wide effort to responsibly embrace cannabis into the Portland community, with the city code Chapter 14B.130 defining everything from hours a business may operate, where they can be located, how sales taxes are collected, and where the revenues will be deposited. Additionally, Portland marijuana laws include city-specific licensing fees for medical and recreational dispensary locations, production facilities, and retail courier services.
Given Multnomah County’s propensity to support cannabis, with 71% of the county voting yes in 2014 on legalizing medical use, it is unsurprising the level of community involvement seen in Portland and the surrounding areas. In 2014, this would represent over 213,000 of voting residents in the county.
Portland Has Set No Limit on Licensed Marijuana Businesses
Though the city has adopted no set limit on the number of retail dispensaries, cultivation centers, or product manufacturers, marijuana laws in Portland do have limits on where these businesses may be operated. For instance, no medical dispensary can operate within 1,000 feet of another medical dispensary. Same goes for recreational. Growing facilities, product manufacturers, and cannabis courier services are prohibited from being accessible to the public, with a limited exception for tours or inspections. At this time, no marijuana can be consumed at a retail or medical marijuana establishment.
As of April 2017, Portland has issued 289 marijuana-related business licenses. This includes 123 licensed medical dispensaries and 119 licensed adult-use marijuana retailers. Additionally, the city has accepted seven (7) retail marijuana courier services allowing the sale of medical and recreational cannabis products by a licensed marijuana delivery service.
Portland Cannabis Consumers Pay More in Taxes
In addition to the statewide tax of 17% on the retail sale of marijuana, Portland marijuana enthusiasts are required to pay an additional 3% on retail sales. As part of the 2016 city elections, ballot measure 26-180 was passed with nearly 80% support.
Prior to January 1st, 2017, Oregon collected 25% sales tax on recreational marijuana sales. Preempting the statewide sales tax reduction to 17% at the beginning in 2017, voters approved the 3% city increase not because the funds will be used to help the government oversee the program; rather, the funds will be used in a number of social welfare programs within the city. As measure 91, the law allowing the recreational sale of marijuana specifies, the state is to use 75% of the excess tax revenues collected to school grant programs, substance abuse education and treatment, and mental health services. In effect, the overall goal of this tax comes from the same recognized community desire to integrate and regulate marijuana policy in a way which ensures public safety. These include:
- Drug and alcohol education and treatment programs
- Services which increase access to substance abuse, rehabilitation, and employment readiness programs
- Investments in Public Safety, such as:
- Police DUII training and enforcement
- Support for firefighter paramedics
- improving street infrastructure for safety
- Other initiatives to reduce impacts of drug or alcohol abuse
- Support for neighborhood small businesses, especially women-owned and minority-owned businesses, including but not limited to business incubator programs, management training, and job training opportunities
- providing economic opportunity and education to communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition
As approved by voters, the additional sales tax on recreational marijuana would be subject to independent City Budget Office oversight, annual public reporting, annual City Council votes on how much of the revenues will be allocated to where, and periodic audits on the use of funds by a City Auditor or independent contractor. The additional tax revenues are expected to be near $3 million per year.
Portland Marijuana Dispensaries Pay Higher Licensing Fees than Required by the State
This is not an uncommon practice, especially if the anticipated oversight of the program is to require more locally than the portion of tax and application revenues from the state licensing board would cover. In order to cover costs in Oregon’s largest city, Portland city council made marijuana retailers initial and annual renewal licensing costs at $4,975 whereas the state only collects $4,750 per licensee.
As of April 2017, there have been 119 marijuana retailer licenses issued in Portland, with another 199 applications having been accepted. From the existing licenses alone, this has generated as much as $592,025 in revenues. If the 199 accepted applications are issued a license, the figure exceeds $1.5 million including $71,550 more than the state licensing agency.
Additional Laws You Should Know
Portland Marijuana Businesses Have to Close by 10 p.m.
Marijuana laws in Portland are required to operate between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., though this parallels the state administrative code.
Recreational Consumers Can Purchase & Possess an Ounce in Public
Public possession of marijuana is legal for adults 21 and up, but only you may only carry as much as one ounce in public. Portland considers possession of over one ounce in public a misdemeanor. You can have up to eight ounces at home.
Though Oregon is Working on Social Use, Public Use Remains Forbidden
It’s true: marijuana cafes and social clubs have a fair chance of entering Portland’s cannabis domain in the near-future. SB 307 and 308 are efforts in the Oregon legislature to allow social use at temporary events and licensed businesses, re-wording the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act to exempt social cannabis use, and create a 14-member task force to evaluate the regulatory structure necessary to administer and oversee such a licensing program.
Until then, if you use marijuana in any place which may be interpreted as public, including your front porch if it offers an unobstructed view to the public, is a class B violation punishable by a fine up to $1,000.