How Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Work

Weed’s still not legal in Oregon without an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) card, but as the vote for Measure 91 approaches in November, it’s worth examining how our state’s legal medical marijuana program currently works for cardholders. Let’s say, in theory, you’ve got your card. When does the state mail you your pound of sticky, kind cheeba-cheeba?

Oh, buddy… no. No.

In the coming weeks, we’ll look at all the options available to you as an OMMP cardholder: Growing your own, designating a grower or caregiver, and visiting dispensaries.

Let’s start with dispensaries, because they’re pretty straightforward. A dispensary is a storefront that sells cannabis, which is pretty cool when you consider there are still states that will put you in jail for a few grams. (Looking at you, Texas.) In this case, the dispensaries are regulated by the state to sell cannabis, edibles, concentrates, topicals, seeds, clones, and so on to cardholding OMMP patients or caregivers. Those products are required by law to be tested and labeled with THC/CBD content, and screened for molds, pesticide residue, and other non-swell stuff.

Beginning this year, in March, Oregon began issuing licenses under its new role of regulating dispensaries. Over 300 applications were submitted, with 183 licenses issued to date. This has drastically changed the way dispensaries are operated, clearing out some less desirable elements. Prior to regulations, there was zero oversight, no testing of product, “door fees,” and other questionable behaviors.

Now you’re required to show your ID and your OMMP card, and your purchases are tracked to dissuade items being re-sold on the gray market. Along with the aforementioned testing, the staff (AKA “bud-tenders”) are held to a higher standard of knowledge regarding the products sold and which conditions and ailments they are best used to treat.

How do you go about finding one of these Plaid Pantries of sticky icky? If you see a storefront with a green cross and a peace-sign flag with Bob Marley on it, your chances are good. (Then again, it’s Portland—that may be an accounting firm.) You could and should read the advertisements printed in this fine family newspaper. Or you can step away from the butter churn, you Luddite, and use one of the many apps and websites available.

Much like finding a cheap, last-minute hotel room, or someone of questionable moral fiber and/or discerning taste to grind upon, there are apps like Leafly and sites like WeedMaps that can help you find a nearby dispensary. By entering your zip code, the site returns a list of dispensaries based on distance. Each has a menu of items available, prices, user reviews, and general tips on strains and events.

Many dispensaries have daily and weekly specials, too: free grams of cannabis, buy-one-get-one deals on concentrates, samples of edibles. And prices can vary widely, from $125 an ounce to upwards of $300. That pricing difference reflects a wide range of quality, whether the plant was grown indoor or outdoors, THC content, and availability.

As Smokey Robinson wisely counseled, “You better shop around.”

Josh Taylor is a well-known and successful entrepreneur in the legal cannabis space, producing B2B and B2C cannabis events, "Backstage Budtending" and upscale concierge services through his companies and His weekly syndicated newspaper column and features about cannabis ran for five years until March 2020.

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