My quest began a few summers back when I found myself seated on a couch listening to the local news and realized that I was in the area, Washington, the day after recreational legalization took effect.  

A week after opening for recreational use, I visited my first dispensary and had my first encounter with this emerging framework.

That was over a year ago. On April 8th 2016, I re-approached recreationally available cannabis through an Oregon dispensary.  Oregon is now in their 1st year of recreational legalization.  

There’s still plenty about the specifics of Oregon’s law that I’m not quite familiar with. For example, I learned that in Oregon, edibles are strictly medicinal.

I was greeted at Talent Health Club by Andrew Robison, General Manager.  I introduced myself as a freelance journalist following the legalization of cannabis throughout the Western U.S., and asked if I could take pictures to document my experience. I also asked Andrew if he’d be okay with an interview as a follow up story to last year’s Smokeless in Seattle.  

I’m glad to say he agreed.  

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Terra Celeste: What’s it like to manage a dispensary?

Andrew Robison: Hectic. Stressful. Scary. But beyond that: one of the most rewarding, exciting endeavors I’ve ever gotten the opportunity in which to participate. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that we get to put smiles on faces every day. Whether another patient comes in reporting being six months cancer-free (with a high-five and a smile) after refusing chemotherapy and going with full-plant cannabis extract oil, or a hard working parent that shows up at closing time to grab a healthy alternative to the after-work beer that allows them to remain a functional parent. Those are the stories that inspire me to do this. My life was saved by this plant and I know it can help others too. I want to be a part of that.

Is your job fun?

Andrew: So much fun! I can’t help working too much because there are new opportunities around every corner in this industry. We’ve barely seen the tip of the iceberg as far as research and education. Every chance to learn and grow the knowledge base that supports the miracle of the cannabis movement and the blossoming industry pumps joy into my heart.

 

I made a mistake, owing to my enthusiasm for both coffee and cannabis, and tried to purchase canna-oil infused chocolate covered coffee beans. Your staff did a great job educating me in this moment.  

My visit to Talent Health Club was as a recreational patron.  I had followed Measure 91 for a few weeks in 2014, right before the vote in Oregon, and have been watching the news as recreational shops open.  

One distinction with Oregon’s law is that recreational and medicinal cannabis are available in any dispensary.  As it was explained to me when I visited Talent Health Club, medical, carded patients have different access to products.  State tax is collected only on the recreational sales.  

Can you explain that? What is it about edibles that keeps them strictly medicinal in Oregon?

 

Thank you for using the scientific term cannabis. Many advocates and activists would like to see the racially and politically charged term, “marijuana”, done away with so we can approach the new era of cannabis from a rational, well-researched, scientific perspective.

At this point, despite the fact that Oregon voters legalized cannabis in general, the framework for regulation and enforcement was left up to the state due to the (intentional?) ambiguity of the language in Measure 91.

Learning lessons from Colorado and Washington, State lawmakers and regulators in Oregon decided to give adults over the age of 21 access to “limited marijuana products”: flowers/leaves, seeds, and plants (clones/seedlings). This, I believe, was done in an attempt to avoid the backlash of the conservative demographic that bought into the fear-mongering propaganda regarding the legalization of cannabis.

A few stories were told–some of them even false trolls meant to spark emotions–of people who consumed edibles irresponsibly and then went on to act stupidly, get hurt, or even die in those states (particularly Colorado).  These stories spread like wildfire through media channels that were already anti-cannabis.

Meanwhile, the legal drug alcohol is involved in a staggering number of incidents compared to cannabis and these go unreported, for the most part. Fear of lawsuits and bureaucratic nightmares is likely what prompted the state of Oregon to take a cautious approach and allow limited access, a bit at a time, starting with the most familiar of products: the bud, seeds, and actual cannabis plants. Thus, only OMMP patients (who presumably are more in need and also educated and familiar with the uses and effects of edibles) are currently allowed to purchase edibles, topicals, tinctures, extracts, concentrates, etc. However, as Oregon residents are never quiet, always outspoken about their rights, demands to honor Measure 91 have prompted the state to push through regulatory framework and allow limited access to those other products soon . . . possibly sometime in April!

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Oregon has legalized recreational marijuana use.  State law makes it clear that use is for those ages 21 and over, must have a valid I.D. (my driver’s license worked), and marijuana cannot be carried outside of the State.  

Visitors take note: smoking is not allowed on campus at OSU, or at most Universities in Oregon.  

What other notes would you have for first time visitors?

Of course I like to remind people of the limits and legalities. Adult Use (Recreational) customers can purchase up to 7 grams of flower per person per day, 50 seeds per day, and four (4) plants total during early retail sales (Oct. 1st, 2015-Dec. 31st, 2016). Possession is one (1) ounce of flower per person while out of the home and up to eight (8) ounces at home. While you can’t yet purchase edibles from us, you can make your own at home or share with a friend. Don’t consume in public. Don’t travel out of state with cannabis in your possession. Don’t consume and drive.  Basic common sense stuff demonstrating to the demographic still harboring fear and anxiety around the subject that we are good citizens and contributing members of society, who have the common goal of making our communities better. The culture and history surrounding cannabis completely parallels this “common sense” sentiment and hopefully our movement will push for this philanthropic agenda as we move forward with legalization of this resource.

At Talent Health Club we also stress educating yourself before you consume. Go online. Talk with your budtender. Get clear on the effects you are looking for. A good time? Pain relief? Chilling and watching a movie? Or maybe pain relief while going on a hike in the woods? How do you want to utilize cannabis to make your life better? If you haven’t smoked in a while, don’t go for one of the crazy new sativa strains that push THC percentages past 25% and blast your brain to outer space. This might induce an episode of paranoia in the novice or returning pro of yesteryear. Conversely, if you are looking to fight cancer and have heard that CBD’s are miraculous, don’t discount what your budtender tells you when they point out that higher levels of THC are an important component in fighting cancer. THC also is what really helps with nausea while going through chemo and is a huge contributor to the pain-relieving properties of cannabis.

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It’s amazing how much diversity comes in just one plant. There are differences in growing environment (daylight, greenhouse, indoor, etc), heritage of the plant’s seed, and measurable content of molecules such as THC and CBD.  Two well known distinguishers are whether the plant has an effect more indica or sativa. One is described as more in the body, while the other may be more about thoughts,  a “heady high.”

One big push behind Oregon’s legalization was the great potential to benefit public education.  Measure 91, Section 44.2.a. states, “Forty percent shall be transferred to the Common School Fund.”  Every 35 days the Oregon Marijuana Account (separate from the General Fund) makes a deposit of 40% of the most recently closed month’s taxes, collected from the sale of recreational marijuana, into the General Education Fund.  

I won’t go too far into politics here, but I’m interested in how your community envisions these tax funds benefit to public education.  What does Oregon’s education need?  What do the schools need?  

To be honest, I’m rather new to the state of Oregon, just over a year (though not to the “State of Jefferson”: I graduated from Humboldt State) and haven’t gotten a complete grasp on the grassroots philosophy on education here.  However, having focused a lot on the educational system in our country in general while going to college, I can probably speak towards this a bit.

Oregonians are fiercely political and fiercely community-focused. I think we like to build up starting from the ground floor. Just like growing good cannabis: let society blossom from the roots up and put your resources into the local community . . . the grassroots.

We should be thrilled that the main chunk of tax revenue collected goes into the educational fund. What worries me is that education in our country in general has taken a large swing towards funding the administrative (business) and test-results side of the educational coin without considering that the final outcome is supposed to be educating individuals and empowering them to change their communities, grassroots-style.

When we put money into the state common school fund, it takes away the decision-making capabilities from communities and puts the power into the hands of state administrators, turning education into a business rather than, well . . . an education. And then when we see the rest of the tax money essentially going to enforcement (whether the language clearly states that or not), it’s easy to presume that smaller, local communities would not necessarily approve of the business-centric choices that occur at the state level regarding our children and the future. Eventually the state will be getting 17% and allow for local municipalities to collect up to 3%. I bet if those numbers were reversed, we’d see a lot more improvement to education and communities in general. The cottage industry model is translatable to other platforms as well, including politics. I would much rather see my 17% stay in the Rogue Valley where I can have a say in what it does for my family and my community.

For this visit, I was a little familiar with the structure of legalization, but didn’t search Leafly or know much at all about Talent Health Club before stepping through the door.

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There is an emerging story of cannabis focused more on ethnobotany, sharing the benefits and good effects of communally responsible use.  Our culture’s relationship with this plant has recently changed in some parts of the U.S., dispensaries such as the Talent Health Club are the result of, well, sort of like long negotiated peace agreements.

This sweet lady was at the register for my first transaction in your shop. She is literally the first person I’ve ever purchased marijuana from in Oregon.  I purchased some hybrids, Lemon Larry and Light Ship.  

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This particular “Lemon Larry” is a hybrid between OG Kush x SFV OG and is aptly named since when you open the jar, it has a lemony scent.  Thinking about these floral, leafy greens raises a few questions about the whole plant in Oregon.  

Are these seeds (pictured below) sold only to carded, medicinal patients?  If yes, does this mean only patients can grow?   For your recreational plants, how are these sourced?  Is that how it works, separate grows, crops or plants for recreational and medical?  Recreational or medicinal, Is everything grown in Oregon?

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That Lemon Larry speaks to my soul. The heavy presence of limonene and the funky, sour, diesel-fuel smell from the OG genetics lets me know my aches will fade and my mood will elevate!

Actually, everybody 21 and up with a valid ID is allowed to buy seeds! And anyone over 21 can purchase and grow up to four (4) plants per residence (not resident) during this limited Adult Use sales period– in which medical dispensaries were allowed to apply to temporarily participate in early recreational cannabis sales starting October 1st, 2015. Until licensing for recreational dispensaries occurs by October, 2016– all cannabis products available for recreational purchase, whether flowers, plants or seeds, are sourced from Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) patient grows.

So yes, it is all Oregon-grown: the best! Excess patient medicine is transferred legally to our dispensary using state issued forms and regulated processes. Oversight is done by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). But until the separate licenses are issued by the Oregon Liquor Control Commision (OLCC)–to recreational–separate from medical–growers, processors, dispensaries, etc., all the actual cannabis products are OMMP patient cannabis that is eventually sold to recreational customers.

 

Well, I’m glad I managed to find my way to Oregon during this window of time.  I’ll be watching the news as recreational growing is licensed, perhaps sometime in Oregon’s near future.

It’s an interesting time for our country, when cannabis is finding mainstream acceptance and new understandings of this plant are shaping the legal framework and social discussion around it. Maybe open conversations like this will help facilitate more reasonable policies supporting access for the everyday person who chooses to consume cannabis on a nationwide basis.

Measure 91

http://www.talenthealthclub.com

Twitter: @tyroterra

Photos: Terra Celeste
Top Photo: Talent Health Club