Oregon’s first week marijuana sales outpace Washington

Designed by Grace Lindsley/Observer

Designed by Grace Lindsley/Observer

Elliott Llera, Online Editor

Seattle Sounders FC or Portland Timbers; Top Pot Doughnuts or Voodoo; Starbucks Coffee or Dutch Brothers: the battle of the border between Washington and Oregon just got a whole lot more interesting.

After just one week of business, retail marijuana stores in Oregon have registered over $11 million dollars in sales, according to Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association.

This is substantial in comparison to Washington State which registered just $2 million dollars in sales after the first month of legalization, according to the Washington Liquor and Control Board.

Part of the reason why Oregon’s sales have been so much higher involves how the state has handled the divide between the recreational and medical industries.

When I-502 was passed in Washington, it separated the recreational and medical marijuana fields, meaning that potential businesses had to apply for licenses, purchase a retail outlet and contract with growers and distributers before being able to open.

Oregon simply allowed the existent medical industry to become the new recreational industry.

With the infrastructure from medical dispensaries already in place, shops were able to expand their customer base from patients with green cards to anyone who was over 21 years old,which resulted in a huge opening week.

“When Washington went legal they had a limited amount of recreational stores selling a limited amount of product,” said Taylor Choyce, co-owner of The Green Shelf in Ellensburg.

“In Oregon, there were already hundreds, if not thousands of medical dispensaries that are now able to sell to the general public. That’s why Oregon has done more initial sales than Washington did.”

The vast amount of stores operating in Oregon immediately after legalization isn’t the only factor contributing to successful sales numbers.

Currently, marijuana in Oregon isn’t being taxed.

I-502 placed a 37-percent-excise tax on pot in Washington right out of the gate, but Oregon’s 25-percent tax won’t kick in until January 1, 2016.

This has resulted in recreational marijuana prices that are similar to what customers in Oregon would be paying if they were buying off of the street.

When asked if marijuana sales in Oregon would affect the industry in Washington, Brittany Choyce, co-owner of The Green Shelf, said she wasn’t concerned.

“I don’t think that Oregon going live will affect Washington State retail stores at this point. But the stores on the border, like the ones in Vancouver, are going to be impacted immediately.”

Just as 18-year-olds in the U.S. would flock to Canada to buy alcohol, Oregonians would do the same for cannabis in Washington.

Two of Washington’s most successful retail stores are located in Vancouver, just a 15-minute drive north from Portland.

Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver is leading Washington State with $13.3 million in total retail sales. Not far behind, in third place, is New Vandsterdam, totaling $11.6 million to date.

“I would have to say that about half of our business was coming out of Oregon,” said an employee from a Vancouver based retail marijuana store who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s been a slower than normal week.

“It’s kind of like being the only lemonade stand on the block, and now suddenly every kid in the neighborhood has a lemonade stand.”