Just months before early recreational marijuana sales germinate across Oregon, a third medical marijuana dispensary comes to Hood River.
Gorge Greenery, which opened last Wednesday, forms a triad of medical marijuana dispensaries in downtown Hood River — all of which will join Oregon’s early sales program, which allows existing medical dispensaries to sell limited supplies of cannabis to customers who don’t hold a medical card.
Possession and use of recreational pot has been legal in Oregon since July 1, but selling it hasn’t been. The early sales program, which was pitched by state legislators and finalized with a bill signed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown July 28, will take effect in October.
Legislators representing Hood River, Sen. Chuck Thomsen and Rep. Mark Johnson, voted no to SB 460, but Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles gave it the thumbs up.
The bill offers a soft opening for recreational sales, serving as transition point until dedicated commercial pot shops are legalized next summer. The conduit: medical marijuana dispensaries.
Starting Oct. 1, medical marijuana dispensaries can sell dried marijuana flowers, seeds and plants to adults 21 and older. Customers can buy a quarter ounce of marijuana per day, even if they don’t hold an Oregon medical marijuana card. However, they cannot buy processed extracts or cannabis-infused edibles currently available to medical patients.
Hood River’s newest medical marijuana dispensary, located at 13 Oak St next to Freshie’s Bagels and Juice, fills a vacant spot once occupied by BookStop and, for a brief time, an art gallery.
“Our motto is the one-stop sustainable pot shop,” said Kirsten Cook, owner of Gorge Greenery.
Cook and her teammates, Josie Muehlhausen and Emmie Purcell, strive for an ecofriendly niche in the marijuana business. Their spacious shop uses recycled and reclaimed wood for furniture, and glass packaging whenever possible.
“We’re trying to be a little more cautious and forward thinking … and keeping it green while being green,” said Cook.
The dispensary allows anybody 18 or over to come inside to the front portion of the building, which will become an area for recreational sales come October.
“We’re allowing anybody to come into this front area that’s of age to get comfortable with cannabis and ask any questions that they may have … We want to get rid of the stigma against marijuana. It’s ‘Reefer Madness’ we want to go away.”
The back area, which is closed off with a sliding barn-style wooden door, will remain a medical dispensary for patients and, for those under 18, their caregivers.
Rob Acken, owner of Otis Gardens, an indoor medical marijuana growing facility in Odell, said the state’s early sales plan will benefit local growers and dispensaries.
“That’ll be a big boom for us and all the dispensaries out there. It’s a really good idea. I don’t know how else Oregon is gonna meet the demand in a timely way that’ll satisfy the public,” said Acken.
OTIS GARDENS, an indoor marijuana growing operation in Odell, currently serves a medical market. Come Oct. 1., that cannabis could be also be destined for recreational sale.
Otis Gardens was the first major indoor marijuana growing facility permitted in Hood River County, Acken said. He and his crew started building on their property about eight months ago, and were permitted to start growing operations in late spring of 2015.
The 9,200-square-foot growing site is currently classified as a medical garden, but Acken hopes to expand operations into recreational growth and, eventually, a processing facility. This will necessitate boosting production size by 150 percent with a new canopy area.
Otis Gardens supplies Gorge Greenery and several other medical marijuana providers around the Gorge.
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