By Hayley Sanchez

The Bulletin

About a year after the recreational use of pot became legal for adults in Oregon, Lizette Coppinger, co-owner of the marijuana dispensary Cannabend, said it is still hard to maintain her business and keep up with the ever-changing marijuana regulations.

“It’s a business that changes quite a bit, and if you’re a person who does not like change, then it’s not for you,” she said Thursday. “When you have a whole team of people, it’s difficult to just make sure everybody is on the same page. We do constantly have meetings. Communication is key.”

Coppinger, 35, is the vice chairwoman of the all-female Bend chapter of Women Grow, which meets the first Thursday of each month.

At Thursday’s meeting, she said the group has been supportive and helpful navigating the challenges women in the marijuana industry face.

In March, a new rule from the Oregon Health Authority, which regulates medical marijuana, took effect that required all medical marijuana dispensaries, growers and processors to report monthly production and processing information.

The first monthly report was originally due Sunday, but the date was changed to July 30. Coppinger said she learned about the change at Thursday’s meeting.

“I just found out they gave an extension, so see what I mean?” she said. “A lot of it is just word of mouth when finding out about new rules. And then you go and look into it and you say, ‘OK, this is changed,’ or you have to dig around more or go to other dispensaries and find out what the new rule is and what they’re doing. This group is really supportive.”

Kristen White, the general manager of Plantae Health dispensaries in Prineville and Madras, agreed navigating the regulations can be difficult, especially with edibles, which can be used for medicinal or recreational purposes.

On June 2, participating dispensaries began selling one edible per day with up to 15 milligrams of THC for recreational use only. However, dispensaries also sell medical marijuana edibles that can be up to 100 milligrams of THC per container.

But White, 31, said Thursday the regulation is hard for people who use edibles for medicinal purposes and are not medical marijuana cardholders.

“(The edible) doesn’t even have to be 15 milligrams,” she said. “If the container only has 2 milligrams of THC, I’m still only allowed to sell one packaged unit. So sometimes that’s frustrating. We’ve had people with really bad pain, you know, really bad ailments coming in, and they literally can only get one every day. So every day they come in and shop, and that’s the only thing helping them sleep. That’s the only thing helping them eat.”

White said she is more than happy to comply with all regulations, being careful not to put anything on dispensary shelves she is not 100 percent confident about, and if she has a question, she will call the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational marijuana, or the Oregon Health Authority.

“If you have questions, seek clarity,” she said. “(Dispensaries) are highly regulated, so you can’t just throw a store together. I think our regulations really help with that. I want to know exactly what you want me to do. I don’t want to screw it up.”

Although keeping up with marijuana regulations can be challenging, Jocelyn Anderson, co-owner of Plantae Health and chairwoman of the Bend chapter of Women Grow, said most in the community are happy the rules exist.

“They’re pretty detailed about all the regulations and security,” the 28-year-old said. “It’s pretty tight at all facilities to ensure safety and for tracking purposes. We want to get rules passed and get regulations, which is best for our industry and moving it forward. People are definitely happy, especially since they don’t have to sneak around and find a drug dealer in the parking lot and they can actually get marijuana in a safe place where they pay their taxes, and it’s all under camera.”

Coppinger said sometimes it is challenging to work with vendors or labs who sell products to dispensaries because they have fewer restrictions by comparison. She looks forward to increased regulation of cannabis vendors and sellers. She agreed with Anderson, saying regulations that keep dispensaries safe and clean and allow customers to make a purchase without feeling embarrassed or awkward.

White described the last year of business as exciting and said she was mostly surprised by the kind of people she has seen in the dispensary.

“I guess I expected your typical stoner, but we have a lot of elderly and a lot of veterans and a lot of people who are generally just medicating,” she said.

“Of course, it’s much safer now, especially with multiple methods. It’s moving really fast, as far as being regulated, and it’s going to get a lot better and a lot more restricted.”

— Reporter: 541-382-1811, hsanchez@bendbulletin.com

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