Dispensaries more about business than bud

Illustration by Miceal Munroe-Allsup

By Hector Brandt

Dispensaries have opened at an impressive rate since Oregon’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2015. There are four dispensaries just within three miles of Lewis & Clark. With dispensaries in what seems to be every neighborhood in Portland, marijuana’s newfound accessibility has changed the lives of many Oregonians, but have they changed the lives of LC students?

“There has not been a drastic change for me in my life since weed was legalized,” Latroy Robinson ’18 said. “Accessibility has been increased, but I still tend to buy on the black market.”

Legalization, for some students, has not affected their marijuana consumption.

“I was buying weed illegally and smoking weed every day before it was legal, and it hasn’t increased or decreased in any way due to the legalization of weed,” Robinson said. “It would perhaps increase if I didn’t have to pay the tax on it.”

Taxes on legal marijuana often make it more expensive than buying product on the black market, which means that illicit means of buying weed remain attractive for those looking to save some cash. Some believe that street weed is not only cheaper but of higher quality than what is available at dispensaries.

“In my experience, recreational marijuana is either ridiculously expensive or of lower quality than street weed,” Sophia Aron ’18 said.

The higher prices of legal marijuana, however, are tempered by the variety of strains available at dispensaries.

“The dispensary is incredibly convenient,” a student who requested to remain anonymous said. “It is a bit pricey still, but with the selection of products, and convenience, it’s well worth it.”

Dispensaries are especially convenient for people trying to budget their time.

“Generally I would call my dealer/friend that morning or the day before and figure out a time for them to drop it off or me to pick it up,” Aron said. “Usually the dealer made me wait around for 30 minutes. Now I can walk into a dispensary anytime between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.”

Time, for better or worse, can also be saved by avoiding polite rituals typically associated with buying from a dealer.

“Now that I can buy weed legally, I don’t have to sit in some dude’s living room and smoke a bowl every time I want to buy weed,” the anonymous student said.

Variety of selection paired with the convenience of the consistent business hours at dispensaries is an important factor for LC students.

“Buying weed on the street meant you got whatever weed the dealer had and the strain name was probably made up,” Aron said. “Now, you walk into a dispensary and there are an overwhelming number of strains at all these various prices. It’s great because of the variety, but sometimes I miss the simplicity of buying from a dealer.”

Dispensaries may not always affect student’s consumption habits, but they do seem to make a difference in Oregon’s weed culture, and the ways in which it differs from where students lived before relocating to Portland.

“Weed has always been a thing in Chicago, but as time has gone on and the destigmatization of weed has progressed in Chicago, people are becoming more relaxed about it,” Robinson said via email. “It was decriminalized, dispensaries are popping up more, though only for medical at the moment, and the push for legalization is full force. There used to be a stigma in Chicago that only a certain kind of person smokes weed, but even from high school till now ‘everyone’ smokes weed. It’s not necessarily seen as a gateway drug, but more seen as a social additive much like how alcohol operates. Portland has always been more lax about their views on weed comparatively. I can walk down the street, smoke a joint and feel much less afraid that someone will call the cops on me in Portland than in Chicago.”

For others, the biggest difference in Oregon’s weed culture, including dispensaries, has to do with the product itself.

“Weed in the Bay Area is more about creating the dankest, most potent, chronic thing you can possibly grow,” Aron said via email. “Some clubs (dispensaries) grow their own weed or buy from private sellers. My friend and his dad started growing in their closet and now sell to dispensaries in San Francisco. The growing community is more focused on combining strains to engineer a particular high. That hasn’t been my experience in Portland. It’s much more of a straightforward business and less about the bud.”

Portland’s dispensaries impact regional marijuana culture in different was for different consumers. For some, the change in weed culture has not affected their consumption habits. Others find that their consumption is deeply affected.

“Originally I smoked more when it was legal due to the novelty factor of getting so many choices, but now I smoke less because it’s so normalized, it’s lost its edge,” the anonymous student said. “Weed used to be counterculture and cool, now that it’s legal it’s pretty lame. We need to move on and find something else that is illegal and cool so skater kids have something to focus on.”

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