Marijuana dispensaries start tight-rope walk of complying with state regulations

SALEM, Ore. - A marijuana dispensary in Salem was open just four days until its owner realized there was a problem.

First Choice Cannabis discovered it was violating a new Oregon law regulating marijuana dispensaries and where they can be located. The dispensary was about 500 feet from an elementary school.

Among the regulations called for in House Bill 3460, dispensaries must be 1,000 feet from a school.

The business then quickly moved, so it was in compliance with the regulation.

"The governor had signed the law, and so we went back through and we're looking at the law and we were like, 'Uh-oh. We need to make sure we're at least 1,000 feet from a school,'" said First Choice Cannabis owner Timindra Zimmerman. "And we checked and we weren't so we just complied with the law."

That's not the only rule governing these dispensaries.

Following passage of the law two weeks ago, First Choice Cannabis is among an estimated 150 to 200 marijuana dispensaries in Oregon that will have to comply with a whole new set of rules. Among the new regulations, owners will be required to undergo criminal background checks as well as send of their marijuana to testing labs to ensure it's not contaminated.

Other rules haven't been outlined yet.

"They have existed in what some would call a gray area," said medical marijuana lobbyist Geoff Sugerman.

Sugerman, who was part of the original campaign to pass Oregon's medical marijuana law, added: "We really are committed in the medical marijuana program to bringing that out in the open."

The Oregon Health Authority has been tasked with drafting rules for dispensaries. They are set to go into effect in March.