Marijuana dispensaries report brisk sales on opening day

The line formed at Oregrown before the doors opened at 8 a.m. Thursday and stayed that way until the shop closed nearly 16 hours later.

The numbers alone tell the story: More than 1,100 customers came through the downtown Bend shop on Thursday, the first day of legal marijuana sales in Oregon, said Oregrown owner Aviv Hadar. In all, they spent a staggering $55,000.

"The numbers just blew us away," he said.

Legal recreational marijuana sales got underway in Oregon this week with 245 dispensaries eligible to sell the drug. Many shops in Portland, home to more than 100 marijuana dispensaries, saw brisk business Thursday.

Marijuana retailers in places like Astoria, Eugene and Bend said they too saw plenty of customers and sold lots of pot.

In southern Oregon, an estimated 350 customers streamed into Green Valley Wellness Center in Talent, four to five times the shop's normal business, said company CEO Michael Monarch.

He said dispensary opened an hour early and stayed open two hours past its usual closing time.

"We were turning away too many people so we just stayed open," said Monarch. "It was an incredible, celebratory experience."

He said budtenders are accustomed to helping Oregon medical marijuana patients find strains to cope with cancer and chronic pain. On Thursday, he said, "all of that went out the window."

"It was more of a recreational experience," he said, adding that lines ranged from 15 to 30 people deep all day.

Sweet Relief in Astoria opened at 12:01 a.m. Thursday to a line that extended to the end of the block, said owner Oscar Nelson.

On a typical day, the dispensary sees between 40 and 70 customers. By the end of business Thursday, about 400 people had been through.

"Everyone was real patient," said Nelson. "Everyone was really excited. We had plenty of product. It just worked out really well. We rolled through the whole night."

Nelson said he sold about 3 pounds on the first day. The state-mandated quarter-ounce limit on dried flower purchases mean higher profit margins for retailers since recreational customers can't buy the larger quantities that come with steep discounts.

"Being forced to sell small amounts helps the bottom line," said Nelson, who sells marijuana for between $8 and $12 a gram. By Friday, business seemed to resume its normal rhythm, said Nelson, with the flow of customers slowing to "a trickle."

"Emotionally, it was a very big 'Whoa!" and now it's back to normal," he said, adding that he expects to see upticks around holidays like July 4th and Thanksgiving.

At Oregrown, business remained brisk on Friday, said Hadar. The shop, which has a prime location, has seen lots of customers from eastern Oregon and from as far away as California.

Customers didn't flinch when it came to spending up to $150 for a quarter-ounce of pot – the high end of Oregrown's price range. Consider that a quarter-ounce generally sells for, on average, between $65 and $110 in Oregon.

"Nobody was scoffing at that price," said Hadar. "Nobody. That is a $600 ounce -- in Oregon. Those are New York numbers. I know that our product is better, but it is the branding, it's the logo, it's the cool factor, the 'Oh, I have the Oregrown my friends don't have it.'"

The idea behind Oregrown's brand is simple, he said.

"We are trying to align Oregrown with Oregon," he said. "From a branding perspective, when they think Oregon, they think Oregrown."

-- Noelle Crombie