Legal pot now short drive away for many Oregonians; police warn motorists not to drive stoned

Recreational pot is now for sale in Washington state, and that means easy access for many residents of neighboring Oregon.

The closest legal pot shop to Portland opens Wednesday, just across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. Freedom Market in Kelso — 45 miles north of Portland — was scheduled to begin sales at noon Tuesday, but its opening was delayed because a delivery scheduled for 11:30 a.m. was pushed back until after 6 p.m.

"We're totally ready to open, and we just don't have anything but pipes in here," owner Kathleen Nelson said.

With anxious customers and TV news crews waiting for the first sales, the store will open shortly after the product arrives, and not wait until Wednesday, she said.

Nelson estimated about 100 people came to the store by noon, and the license plates were split about 50-50 between Oregon and Washington.

"We're just disappointed we have had to turn people away for the moment," Nelson said. "It's probably going to be August before we get a steady supply and can actually be open 8 a.m. until midnight."

Law enforcement officials say there's nothing stopping Oregonians from buying pot in Washington. But the law bans them from bringing the marijuana back with them for use in their home state.

Also, authorities say Oregonians who drive home stoned could get busted, just like a drunken driver.

Oregon State Police said it's not doing anything differently in response to Washington's pot sales.

"We are always on the lookout for drivers under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both," Sgt. Gregg Hastings.

Washington law allows the sale of up to an ounce of dried marijuana. Under Oregon law, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is classified as a violation, punishable by a fine.

Owners of stores near Portland anticipate lots of Oregon customers, but some observers say swarms of motorists and bicyclists heading across the state line are unlikely.

Because state-regulated marijuana production got off to a slow start, supply problems could send prices at Washington stores as high as $25 per gram this summer. That's more than double what many recreational users in Portland spend on the black market.

"I don't think access to cannabis in Oregon is difficult," said Leland Berger, a Portland lawyer who advises medical marijuana businesses statewide. "I think they're more likely to see folks coming from Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) to Spokane (Washington) than they are likely to see folks coming from Portland to Vancouver, and I think it really has to do with the availability and price."


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