Breeze Botanicals is first recreational pot retailer
A Gold Hill medical marijuana dispensary that was the first legal store of its kind in Jackson County has become the first licensed recreational marijuana retailer in Oregon.
Breeze Botanicals opened its doors June 14, 2014, in Gold Hill, followed by another store in Ashland in February 2015 on Siskiyou Boulevard.
"They will be No. 1 and No. 2," said Danica Hibpshman, director of statewide licensing for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
"We were at a crossroads," said Brie Malarkey, owner of Breeze Botanicals. "Either we could be just medical or go recreational cannabis."
Breeze opened its doors selling only medical marijuana, and then Oregon voters legalized cannabis for anyone 21 or older.
"We had to forfeit our medical marijuana license as part of the OLCC rules," she said.
Under state regulations, Malarkey still can sell cannabis to Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cardholders without charging the 17 percent tax required of recreational cannabis users.
"We will be able to serve all people at this point," she said.
Many local jurisdictions, including Ashland, are looking to add a 3 percent tax on retail marijuana and will be asking voters for permission in the Nov. 8 election.
OLCC has approved 21 retail pot licenses so far, and has received the licensing payments from eight of them. The licenses will be issued officially at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
Hibpshman said 322 licenses have been applied for statewide. She said Breeze Botanicals was one of the first to apply, submitting its paperwork on June 4.
Medical marijuana stores throughout Oregon can continue to sell recreational marijuana until Jan. 1, 2017, after which it will be allowed only by stores licensed by the OLCC. Oregon lawmakers decided to give medical dispensaries a year in which to sell recreational pot in order to give the OLCC time to formulate its rules and regulations for retailers.
A store licensed for recreational sales will be able to sell a full range of marijuana products, including four immature plants and 10 seeds.
In preparation for the Oct. 1 changeover, Malarkey said she will have a 50-percent-off sale on edibles that have 101 to 600 milligrams of the active ingredient in cannabis. After that point, she will have edibles with just 50 milligrams in a package, but clearly marked with 5-milligram servings, an amount the OLCC settled on after problems arose in Colorado with edible marijuana products. Medical-grade cannabis can have up to 100 milligrams.
"The new rules — some are good, some are crazy," Malarkey said.
The OLCC requires stores to have video surveillance around the clock, and the video files need to be saved for 90 days, which requires a lot of data storage space, Malarkey said. Under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, she had to keep videos for 30 days.
Part of the reason for the video requirement is to make sure none of the marijuana is diverted illegally from a store and possibly sent out of state, Malarkey said.
Also, customers will be required to have so-called exit bags for the marijuana products they buy. The bags are designed to make it difficult for children to open them.
Malarkey and her husband, Jon Cunningham, run the two stores, as well as Sunna Ra Acres, where cannabis and other herbs are grown.
They also run Sun God Medicinals in Central Point, which manufactures herbal and cannabis goods.
Malarkey said her companies employ 25 people, though some of the employees work seasonally.