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Marijuana sales begin in Longview area

Oregonians can purchase drug in Washington, but possession, consumption remain illegal here


by: MARK MILLER - The Freedom Market in Kelso, Wash., located on Westside Highway. The store opened for business Tuesday, July 8.Two stores in the Longview-Kelso metropolitan area were among 24 establishments licensed this week in Washington to begin selling marijuana.

The Freedom Market in Kelso, Washington, and Westside 420 Recreational in Longview, Washington, received licenses Monday, July 7, allowing them to begin legal marijuana sales the following day.

Under Washington state law, marijuana can be legally purchased by anyone over the age of 21 who presents photo identification. That means Oregon residents can buy and use marijuana legally in Washington, as long as they do not consume the marijuana in a public place or on the grounds of a marijuana store.

However, outside of the state medical marijuana program, marijuana remains illegal in Oregon, even if it is purchased legally in another state.

“Possession is possession,” Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said. “In other words, it doesn’t matter where you got it.”

Both Oregon and Washington have laws against driving under the influence of intoxicants, including marijuana. Dickerson said his agency will be alert for potential increases in DUII as a result of legal marijuana sales across the river, although he said there are no plans to increase patrols.

“Certainly, there’s the bigger potential of people saying, ‘Yeah, we can smoke there without breaking the law, and then [drive] home,’” said Dickerson, adding, “I don’t know how many Oregonians are going to cross the bridge so they can smoke legally.”

The only surface crossing between Columbia and Cowlitz counties is the Lewis & Clark Bridge, which spans the Columbia River between Rainier and Longview, Washington.

Rainier police did not respond to a request for comment.

Both licensed marijuana stores are about a six-mile drive from the bridge, using major roads.

A sign at Westside 420 Recreational on Wednesday said the store was closed, but the Freedom Market was serving customers.

The Freedom Market received its first shipment of marijuana Tuesday evening. Store employee Breanna Alleman, the owner’s daughter, said workers supplied a long line of customers waiting during the day with water and pizza.

“We had a line outside of 50 to 70 people,” said Alleman.

Business was slower Wednesday afternoon, although Alleman said it had been “steady” throughout the day.

“We’re about out of product,” Alleman added, although small amounts of marijuana were still being sold to customers.

by: MARK MILLER - A customer peruses the wares at the Freedom Market in Kelso, Wash., as store employee Breanna Alleman (right) looks at her computer.The Freedom Market welcomes customers from out of state. Store employees said they have seen a number of Oregon drivers’ licenses as they check customers’ IDs upon entry.

“We’re just hoping everyone’s following the rules and consuming in Washington state, and not taking it across state lines,” said Alleman. “But we are legally OK to sell to anyone, so we are excited about that.”

There are no laws against being under the influence of marijuana in Oregon, Dickerson said, as long as the person in question is not operating a vehicle.

“There’s no statute in Oregon that says you can’t be under the influence, that it’s a crime to be under the influence of a controlled substance,” Dickerson said. “So if someone smokes weed up there and then comes down here, there’s nothing we can do about it, unless they’re driving.”

Marijuana was legalized in Washington by referendum in 2012. Supporters of a similar measure in Oregon say they have collected enough signatures to refer it to the ballot this November.

Alleman expressed enthusiasm about her work with the Freedom Market, which she said is planning to open a second storefront in Longview next month.

“We’re really excited to be on the forefront of history here,” Alleman said.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. However, the U.S. Department of Justice has indicated it will not make enforcement of the ban a priority in states that have legalized the drug for pharmaceutical or recreational use.