Medford is Oregon’s pot capital

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Medford has the most pot stores per capita in Oregon, and the second-highest number compared to 600 U.S. cities with a population of 50,000 or more.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Clay Bearnson, a Medford city councilor who works at a downtown dispensary, Oregon Farmacy. “I reckon it’s better to be first in that rather than having the highest crime stats.”

Bearnson joined Medford City Council in 2014, and he said it was a two-year struggle to allow dispensaries to operate within city limits.

Verilife, a company with dispensaries in the eastern half of the country, studied 600 cities in the U.S. with populations of 50,000 or more and found the highest concentrations of dispensaries in Oregon.

We have 16.5 dispensaries for every 100,000 people in the state. Oklahoma ranked second with 15.6 dispensaries, followed by Montana with 15.1.

California had only 1.6 dispensaries for every 100,000 people, and Washington state, 6.2. The study looked at 36 states that have legalized marijuana in varying degrees.

Breaking the data down further, Missoula, Montana, had the most dispensaries of the 600 U.S. cities surveyed, with 18.1 stores per 50,000  residents. Medford has 17, according to the Verilife survey.

Pueblo, Colorado, ranked third with 16.6 dispensaries for every 50,000 residents.

Eugene ranked fourth at 16.1, followed by Denver, Colorado at 14.9 and then Portland at 14.5.

Norman, Oklahoma, came in seventh at 14.1 and then Moore, Oklahoma, with 13.

Salem, Oregon, came in ninth, Bend was 11th, Corvallis was 16th and Springfield was 19th.

Oregon had six cities in the top 30, and Oklahoma had nine.

Bearnson said he thinks there are too many dispensaries operating in Medford, and he expects to see a shakeup in the future.

Still, new dispensaries seem to be opening all the time, but Bearnson said most new store owners don’t realize that the tax code makes it difficult for dispensaries to make a profit because they can’t take the write-offs that are typical for other industries.

“It’s an unsustainable model,” he said. “I think people don’t grasp the onerous tax burden that comes with a retail license.”

Matt Zajechowski, outreach team lead for the marketing firm Digital Third Coast, which represents Verilife, said, “Oklahoma is a huge surprise.”

Zajechowski, who’s based in Chicago, said it wasn’t surprising to see Illinois with low numbers of dispensaries, because cannabis was legalized there at the start of the year.

Oregon’s numbers stood out, as well.

“It was a little bit of a surprise, but having been in Oregon for a little bit of time, it’s not too surprising,” he said.

Zajechowski said the data for Oregon was collected from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates pot stores.

Verilife, which has locations in the Midwest and on the East Coast, was interested in compiling the data to get a better idea of other potential markets where cannabis is legal but doesn’t have enough stores to serve its population.

“They wanted to see where there was high concentrations in places where it’s legal,” he said. “They’re definitely trying to expand in other markets.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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