BY ANDREW SELSKY
James Knox, owner of Savant Plant Technologies, discusses his products while setting up for the Oregon Cannabis Growers' Fair in Salem, Ore., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. In a sign of how mainstream the once-illicit marijuana industry is becoming in Oregon, one of four states to have legalized it, exhibitors are heading to the state capital to set up for the inaugural Oregon Cannabis Grower's Fair.
SALEM, OREGON. (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — From seed providers to a company offering mechanized bud trimmers, those involved in the once-illicit marijuana industry in the Pacific Northwest got ready on Friday for the first-ever Oregon Cannabis Growers' Fair.
Reggae music thumped from Savant Plant Technologies' display as owner James Knox, 38, of Corvallis, set up his do-it-yourself grow package, including peat and microorganisms to stimulate plant growth, among more than 80 exhibitors registered for the two-day fair that starts Saturday.
Oregon is one of four states to have legalized marijuana, along with Washington, D.C. "It's nice for us to be stepping across the line and say, 'Here we are, and we're ready to do business,'" he said. "For those of us who have been doing this a long time, this is a breath of fresh air because we're able to work openly and in the light."
Winning entries of a pot-plant competition at the fair will be displayed in two weeks at the Oregon State Fair, the first time cannabis will be exhibited at a state fair anywhere in the United States, organizers said.
"It is an historic event. It's a great opportunity to meet these growers that typically were underground," said fair organizer Mary Lou Burton. "We're trying to get people connected up and networking."
Nine winners of the pot-plant competition will showcase their plants at the Oregon State Fair, along more traditional items like tomatoes, hogs and horses, in two weeks. They will be under display in a small greenhouse amid tight security, she said.
Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana in a November 2014 ballot initiative, Measure 91. Medical marijuana was legalized years earlier. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is in the process of issuing licenses for recreational marijuana production.
The business is booming. Oregon's Legislative Revenue Office in May quadrupled its estimate of net state tax revenues, from $8.4 million to $35 million, expected from recreational marijuana through June 30, 2017.
But with marijuana still illegal under federal law, the industry can't use banks to do their business. Jerry Fee, owner of NorthWest Safe Sales of Oregon City, uses the banking impediment as a business opportunity and was setting up a display at the growers' fair including four formidable-looking safes. His prices range from $800 to $15,000.
"People like to lock up what's important to them, whether its money or product," he said. Business names at other booths being set up included Pruf Cultivar, My Urban Greenhouse, Half Baked and Greener Futures.
Donald Morse, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council and the person who thought up the fair, said it aims to "demystify" marijuana. "It's not to tempt people to use marijuana," Morse said. "It is to educate. Cannabis is Oregon's newest farm crop."
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