The OLCC Is Solving a Problem That Doesn't Exist with a Costly, Environmentally Irresponsible New Rule

Getting high just got a little more complicated.

Getting high just got a little more complicated.

On Oct. 1, new rules went into effect for Oregon's marijuana stores. While most of the talk about these rules is centered on testing and labeling, you might have noticed some products are now required to leave the store in a new, heavy-duty plastic bag.

Here's the deal: According to an administrative rule, cannabis and cannabis products except for seeds and plants must now be in an Oregon Liquor Control Commission-approved, child-resistant container. The OLCC has a list of approved containers on its website. Some, like the screw-top containers that look like prescription pill bottles, are familiar. But any extract, concentrate or other product with more than 15 milligrams of THC must be placed in a package that is resealable and child-resistant.

The exit bags resemble the money bags businesses use. The product can't be removed until the locking mechanism is triggered.

The exit bags provide companies a "work-around," says OLCC marijuana spokesman Mark Pettinger. Perhaps in a nod to the somewhat complicated nature of the new rules, the OLCC has a website infographic suggesting that budtenders put anything they're not sure about into an exit bag. And you might get it in an exit bag anyway, because it's quicker to put an ounce into an envelope and then into an exit bag than it is to put the ounce into several child-proof containers.

While keeping weed away from kids is laudable, the bags are an attempt to solve a problem that doesn't really exist. Data doesn't lie: Kids in Oregon aren't getting poisoned by pot in great numbers, with just 10 such cases involving children under age 6 reported to the Oregon Poison Center in the first quarter of this year. There were only 25 cases in 2015.

And while the bags are designed to keep kids away from the goodies inside, they can be difficult for the frail to open, especially people suffering from ailments such as arthritis, according to Oregon Grown Gift Shop manager Joe Frackowiak.

"We get all kinds of complaints," says Frackowiak, adding that since his shop started using the bags in January in anticipation of the new rules, he's received "complaints from elderly people saying they've had to cut the bag open because they couldn't get the zipper open."

Frackowiak estimates that his shop uses 300 to 600 bags per month, which also eats into the bottom line. He says Oregon Grown has "absorbed the cost" but might have to raise prices.

The bags also raise environmental concerns. Frackowiak says customers have refused to make purchases because they did not want their weed product in an exit bag.

Plastics are not progressive. Asked about exit-bag-related environmental concerns, the OLCC's Pettinger mentioned Hi Sierra-brand exit bags as approved and recommended. However, despite the bags' green claims ("Eco-Responsible," "Eco Clean Manufacturing," "Green Packaging"), the bag's inventor, Mike Greenfield, says they are not recyclable because of the plastics involved in the manufacturing process. This means that unless you save your bags, they could end up in the belly of a whale, or in a landfill for future generations to deal with.

But there is still hope. Caleb Tice, operations manager of Foster Buds and Glisan Buds, believes use of exit bags will eventually decrease as weed manufacturers adjust their packaging to meet requirements.

"I'm happy to do it in the short term," he says, "knowing that the packages are ultimately going to get to the point where we aren't going to use them much."