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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Recreational Marijuana Sales At Medical Dispensaries Set To End In Oregon

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

After Oregon voters approved recreational marijuana use for adults in 2014, there was no place to legally buy it until October of the following year. That's when a law kicked in that allowed dispensaries to sell to people without medical marijuana cards.

The system gave the state time to set up a separate licensing system for recreational stores. But at the end of this month, the law expires. And that means starting in January, recreational users in Oregon will have fewer places to legally buy pot.

Andre Ourso is manager of the Medical Marijuana program at the Oregon Health Authority. He 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,” Ourso said.

The change will affect more than 300 dispensaries. As of mid-December there are just under 100 recreational marijuana retailers in Oregon.

That number is expected to grow as more medical dispensaries apply for and are granted recreational licenses. Businesses with recreational licenses 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, though. In some parts of Oregon, local regulations prohibit recreational sales but allow medical sales.