The competition for recreational-pot customers between Portland and Vancouver, Wash., is now officially on.
PORTLAND — At 10 a.m. Thursday, the doors of the Pure Green dispensary opened for the first time to recreational sales, with staff ushering in customers waiting outside who could choose from two dozens strains of pot, and receive a free joint along with their first purchase.
Pure Green is one of 119 medical dispensaries scattered across Portland that as of Oct. 1 can sell marijuana to anyone over the age of 21. These dispensaries turn the city into a recreational pot mecca, where such outlets outnumber those that sell hard liquor, according to state regulatory agencies.
Collectively, they pose formidable competition for Main Street Marijuana, just across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash. Thanks in part to Oregon clientele, the shop has ranked as the top-grossing outlet in Washington.
“They have had a good run, and now it’s our turn,” said Matt Walstatter, the owner of Pure Green, which operates in a store front on Sandy Boulevard in Northeast Portland. “Oregon has a deep, rich cannabis culture here, and we have had for many years.”
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Oregon’s entry into the recreational market comes at a time when Washington retailers are benefiting from a surge in supplies that has allowed them to cut prices. And owners of Main Street Marijuana, which grossed more than $2 million in August, are not ceding market shares without a fight.
Earlier this week, they cut prices by 25 percent, with most of their marijuana strains selling for $12 a gram, taxes included, which matched the Thursday price for the least-cost recreational offerings at Portland’s PureGreen.
And prices are headed down further.
“There’s a new harvest coming in, and a massive glut,” said Adam Hamide, a co-owner of Main Street Marijuana. In a flier distributed to customers in the store Thursday, the store promoted some strains of marijuana that would go on sale Oct. 15 for less than $5 a gram.
The competition along the Columbia River comes as the national movement to legalize pot registers another step forward. For the first time, two adjacent states now have legal markets for recreational pot.
Oregon’s move into recreational sales comes more than a year after Washington’s began. Legalization in both states resulted from voter approval of initiatives.
But in Oregon, there has been a very different startup, as medical dispensaries registered through the state are allowed, on a temporary basis, to branch into recreational sales. This was approved by the Oregon Legislature earlier this year in a law that enables these outlets for the next 15 months to sell up to a quarter ounce of marijuana flowers to recreational users.
Walstatter, who lobbied for the legislation, says he hoped the law would throw the state’s medical dispensaries an economic lifeline and also help undercut black-market sales while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission sets up a permanent program for regulating recreational-marijuana outlets. Those outlets will begin sales in October 2016.
To help kick off legal pot sales, the Oregon medical dispensaries also can sell the marijuana without any taxes until Jan. 1.
But medical dispensaries are only allowed to sell recreational users flowers, and not the extracts, candies, juices and other edible offerings. At Pure Green, they are now placed at the far end of the dispensary reserved for holders of Oregon medical-marijuana cards.
Jack Gibson, a Portland writer and filmmaker who had previously purchased pot in Vancouver, was one of the first customers on Thursday to visit PureGreen. He thought the prices were reasonable and was impressed by the service.
“I think the quality is great, and I like having a shop owner who works on the medical side because they are going to be more knowledgeable. “In Vancouver, there is more of an in-and-out, selling mentality.”
But there are plenty of people who find the bustle of the Main Street shop on Vancouver to be a big draw, with offerings that include dozens of different strains of marijuana flowers, as well as edibles still off-limits in recreational sales in Oregon.
On Thursday, hundreds of people through the course of the day surged into Main Street Marijuana. But Portland recreational sales did appear to have some impact Thursday.
Ed Givens, Main Street’s budmaster, said that the lunchtime surge was lighter than normal.
Still, he was hopeful for a future.
Givens said that the drop in pot prices has broadened the clientele to include more young people who once bought on the black market but now find legal recreational marijuana more affordable.
And he looks forward to serving the marijuana tourists.
“My feeling is that our little shop has become a destination point,” Givens said. “I see people from all over the country. New York City and the South … I’m going to guess that we’re going to continue to stay busy. “