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Legal pot now a short drive for many Oregonians

Associated Press Updated: July 9, 2014 at 12:45 am 0

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Recreational pot is now on sale in Washington state, but actually getting that pot required some patience Tuesday for residents not only of neighboring Oregon but southwest Washington as well.

Freedom Market in Kelso, Washington — 45 miles north of Portland — was scheduled to begin sales at noon Tuesday, but the pot delivery scheduled for late morning got delayed, and then delayed some more.

Owner Kathleen Nelson said she offered water and pizza to the 50 to 60 dedicated customers who waited into the evening.

"The truck arrived! Yeah!" Nelson said after the shipment finally rolled in about 8:30 p.m. Then store workers scrambled to sort the 19 strains and stock the shelves so the first customers could make their purchases.

Did she ever consider canceling Tuesday's effort and waiting a day?

"We are not missing this date!" she declared. Nelson estimated the initial supply might sell out Tuesday night, but she planned to replenish her stock and have more available on Thursday.

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

The closest legal pot shop to Portland opens Wednesday, just across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington.

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 they're 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 said.

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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Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub

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