By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

When Krista Ledbetter put some furniture for sale on Craigslist last month, the inquiries that started coming in from would-be buyers were puzzling.

“One of the first, all he said was to ask if I was ‘OMMP friendly’ for a trade,” Ledbetter said. “I didn’t even know what that meant, so I had to Google it to figure out he wanted to trade my furniture for weed.”

OMMP is shorthand for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. Dig through the listings on Craigslist and other online marketplaces long enough, and you’ll find scattered references to ‘OMMP’ and ‘MMJ,’ evidence of a barter economy where marijuana serves as currency.

A PlayStation 3 in Redmond, a 2006 Volvo in Eugene, a wakeboard and doghouse in Klamath Falls and a Jet Ski in Cottage Grove — all have been offered for sale in recent months, either for cash, or available in a trade for marijuana. An unknown number of other individuals, like those encountered by Ledbetter, are presumably interested in offering marijuana in lieu of cash to buy what they’re shopping for.

Officially speaking, it’s illegal for anyone not licensed by the state to accept payment for marijuana, whether it’s in the form of cash, a secondhand car or any other item of value. State-licensed dispensaries can sell to anyone 21 or older. State-licensed medical growers can sell to their designated medical marijuana cardholding patients or to dispensaries or processors — but, the payment they receive is supposed to reflect only the cost of growing the marijuana.

Justin Gottlieb, a past candidate for office in Bend and activist with the High Desert Cannabis Community, said the market created by the legalization of marijuana in Oregon has opened the door to barter.

Gottlieb said dispensary operators have come to rely on a small handful of growers to provide nearly all of the product they sell to the public. For small-scale medical growers or growers who don’t have an inroads with a dispensary, barter deals are an opportunity to move their excess product.

“These farmers have invested a great deal of time, energy and love in growing their crops. And no one wants to see their crop or their hard work go to waste; if they can’t get it in the shops, they’d like it to go to someone who will appreciate it, just like any other business.”

Jonathan Modie, spokesman with the Oregon health department’s medical marijuana program, said he had not previously heard of online marijuana bartering but was “not surprised” to learn it existed.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,

shammers@bendbulletin.com

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