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Weed delivery: Portland commissioners OK licensing for 'marijuana retail couriers'

In this Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016 photo, pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes are displayed at a medical marijuana dispensary. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

At Mayor Charlie Hales' final city council meeting, Portland commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that adds a license for delivery-only cannabis businesses.

But don't expect to be able to purchase marijuana online, yet.

Businesses operating as "marijuana retail couriers" would not be able to sell from brick & mortar shops and they could only receive and deliver orders between certain hours of the day. According to the ordinance, they could only deliver products within city limits.

The courier license is billed in city documents as a way for "microbusiness entrepreneurs" to break into the marijuana market.

"Since the state's regulations keeps changing and the industry keeps growing, we'll be coming back with more changes I'm sure," Commissioner Amanda Fritz said.

Fritz pushed to amend the City's marijuana regulations ahead of January 1, 2017.

The City says the regulated marijuana industry has not been accessible to many because it's expensive to become licensed, rent or own a location and purchase product.

The license category would allow retailers who want to make marijuana and products- including edibles, extracts and concentrates- available for purchase solely through delivery from established businesses in the City.

The City says they will adopt some rules set by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, who oversee marijuana regulation statewide.

Like dispensaries and retailers, couriers would have to keep their headquarters at least 1,000 feet from a school, although they could deliver to homes that are within that limit. They must also follow current rules that keep pot businesses at least 1,000 feet apart.

"It's a cool direction to go, but I think that it requires a lot of legislation," Casey Arbogast, owner-operator of Nothwest ReLeaf said. "It's not like delivering pizza."

Like many other dispensary owners and managers, Arbogast says a courier service seems too risky.

"I'm sure a lot of people would like the convenience of delivery, but not everyone is trustworthy," he said. "You'd almost have to guarantee that your drivers aren't going to come up into a situation where they are put in danger because of the product that they're delivering."

Arbogast says delivery vehicles would need to be secure and delivery locations safe for employees.

The OLCC currently allows licensed marijuana retail dispensaries can deliver marijuana items to homes, if they register and are approved, and follow state guidelines on delivery and transportation.

OLCC spokesperson Mark Pettinger says 8 marijuana dispensaries have received this designation. Another 30 or so businesses are waiting for approval.

However, the OLCC temporarily suspended the program, after if found the Cannabis Tracking System failed to track customer deliveries consistent with the rule requirements.

Portland's Marijuana Policy Program Assistant Brandon Goldner told KATU they had not received any retail courier applications Wednesday, but said "some businesses have expressed interest in this license type."

A representative of private-delivery service in Portland who spoke on anonymity told KATU that the company he worked for was interested in the idea, but stated there were "a lot of hoops to jump through" before it could become a reality.

The City says the current proposed legislation has gone through a lengthy public involvement process, including regular meetings of the Marijuana Policy Oversight Team, which consists of both members of the community and industry.

Arbogast says he looks forward to seeing how the idea catches on.

"We're seeing it with everything," he said. "Pizza is not the only thing that's delivered. You get Amazon Prime, drone deliveries are going to happen soon. I think that this online ordering process is going to start to take over a little bit."

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