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Which Areas Of Oregon Allow Marijuana Sales And Which Don’t?


Fifty-six percent of Oregon voters in 2014 decided that marijuana shall be legal statewide. That’s the greatest statewide support for legalization of the four states that have passed it. Every adult may possess an ounce of marijuana, grow four cannabis plants at home, possess a half-pound of marijuana at home, and shop in safe retail outlets.

The only problem? If you live east of the Cascade Mountains, there will be no safe retail outlets for you.

As the legislature worked on implementing the will of the majority, representatives of the people living in those eastern counties demanded a compromise. Allow the counties that really, really hate potheads to ban marijuana markets, or they’ll sue to destroy the entire state’s legal marijuana markets.

Measure 91 already contained within it some powerful local control options for those counties. Any county or city could ban marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers. But those bans would have to go before the voters in that city or county at the next election. That’s what a majority of Oregon voters decided would be fair.

But the eastern counties didn’t like that idea. Their representatives argued that they had just rejected the statewide vote for legalization, so why should they have to once again muster up a majority in their county to vote against legal pot shops?

Thus, HB 3400 was passed with what I call the “West Idaho Compromise”. Those rural, conservative counties that better resemble Idaho’s culture than western Oregon’s could vote through their city councils or county commissions to ban legal marijuana markets, with no automatic referral to the ballot for voter approval, if their county voted greater than 55 percent against Measure 91.

This has now led to ten counties and 25 cities to enact such bans, and only in two counties and ten cities will the voters be asked to approve those bans.

The problem with the logic in allowing pot-hating counties to automatically ban is that the first statewide vote we held was not about allowing legal pot shops, but ending illegal marijuana. We all agreed to end illegal marijuana. Now, if a county or city wants to ban, the question is different. It is no longer “shall we end prohibition and, in doing so, establish pot shops?” Today it is “like it or not, now that marijuana is legal, should citizens have a local place to buy it?”

It’s a critical difference. If I’m a pot-hating voter in eastern Oregon, maybe I vote no on Measure 91 because I don’t want an increase in pot’s availability. But now that it is legal statewide, as a pot-hating voter, maybe now that the choice is a legal pot shop versus illegal dealers who are now legal to grow four plants and possess eight ounces. Maybe I could be persuaded that the pot shop is the lesser of those two evils.

But we’ll never know, because those pot-hating counties and cities make that decision among a handful of elected representatives who are more attuned to what the downtown business owners and the rural land owners want than what the average citizen may want.

Meanwhile, the legislature also passed SB 460, which allows the existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell to all adults a limited amount of marijuana only, if the dispensary opts in. This has given us over 240 locations where adults can buy marijuana from a licensed, regulated business, rather than the dude who’s using our new legality as a cover for his weed dealing.

Of course, none of these legal marijuana outlets exist east of the Cascade Mountains. In West Idaho, prohibition still rules the commerce in marijuana. Unfortunately, starting in January, those counties will still receive a portion of the tax revenues that only western Oregon pot smokers will be paying, and they will continue to receive their unearned tax revenue until July 2017.

oregon marijuana sales map

Source: Portland NORMLmake a donation


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. Come to think of it, what was so different last time the legal marijuana issue came up? It failed to pass then, what’s so different now? Is this about legal marijuana, or the taxes?

  2. As someone from the Eastern part of the state, I have only a few things to say: I think if the drug is legal, it should be sold everywhere across the state, period. I do not agree with forcefully opting out of sales, especially when citizens of a county aren’t even given a say in the matter. Next, I agree with the ones saying those counties shouldn’t be allotted any of the tax revenue from it. That kind of thinking blows my mind.

  3. Marianne Mathieson on

    When the nay-sayers in eastern counties figure out how much money they will lose via taxation & sales maybe they will come around. Until then, we can only hope the PEOPLE will get more attention from the politicians who cater to businesses & large scale (GMO?) farmers (who are probably worried about someone else who would have a crop out selling their soy beans)–because all the PEOPLE I know, want what the rest of the state has. We can only hope that enlightenment comes soon & all the old red neck, gun toting folks who don’t know any better will die off.

  4. Lilarose Davis on

    Guessie Whatie–who cares. Everyone I know on the South Oregon Coast has been growing their own for years, and we grow the best in the nation. Nothing will stop people who want marijuana. It hasn’t yet. I have seen a group of sheriff’s deputies using confiscated pot.

  5. Then they better not get one penny of the tax revenue then, since we know it will be millions yearly!!!

  6. I read that the municipalities that have banned dispensaries have forfeited their ability to collect sales tax revenue.

  7. I read that after July 2017, taxes will get distributed within Oregon at least partly by % of total licenses. That’s not just retail sales but growing, testing labs, concentrate/extract company licenses and so forth. Seems only fair…

  8. 91% of all rec pot shops in Oregon are within 65 miles of I-5. (The green line doesn’t properly include Brookings, which a 65-mile radius would include. I’ll fix that soon.)
    It is closer for a resident of Ontario, Oregon, to drive to Clarkston, Washington, to get legal weed than to drive to The Dalles or Bend, the nearest pot shops in Oregon.

  9. I like that you support the free market for cannabis. Still, I wish that you’d support the free market for those “dangerous drugs” as well. Sometimes people use drugs to an extreme and cause damage to their families; this happens with alcohol all the time. No matter how strong a drug is, though, it’s still better to have a legally regulated market with as many safeguards and tax-supported damage control strategies as possible. Even with methamphetamine or heroin, it’s far better to have a regulated system than it is to have dealers a few streets down.

  10. We will have to put a measure on the ballot to stop tax revenue from going to those counties. Im a conservative but I believe in the free market. I sure hope these Eastern Oregon counties like their meth because those tax revenues are going to fight the dangerous drugs that actually destroy lives and families.

  11. If HB 3400 conflicts with Measure 91 (the original measure that voters passed), it should be rendered illegal.

  12. Someone should file a lawsuit against HB 3400. None of those cities and counties should receive a single penny in tax dollars if they opt for a ban.

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