The Columbian / Associated Press

Recreational pot shops licensed in Oregon, now set to open

Workers harvest marijuana plants in a rural area near Corvallis, Ore., on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. On Friday the recreational marijuana regulating body announced that it has approved several licenses for recreational marijuana shops to open as of October 1, 2016, meeting a deadline set by the agency. (Andrew Selsky /Associated Press)

SALEM, Ore. — Starting on Saturday, Oregonians can buy marijuana for recreational use at shops intended for that purpose.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission announced on Friday it has approved licenses for 26 retailers around the state, meeting a key deadline almost two years after voters passed a ballot measure legalizing pot.

“It’s a pretty exciting day for the OLCC,” Steven Marks, the executive director of the commission charged with regulating recreational marijuana, said in a conference call with journalists. He said 12 recreational retailers can start operating as soon as Saturday.

October had been set as the month in which retail store licensing would start under an OLCC timeline. Medical marijuana stores have been permitted to sell recreational marijuana since last October. Such dispensaries won’t be allowed to sell to recreational users after Dec. 31.

The approved retail shops are located in the Portland area, and in southern, central and western Oregon, including along the coast. Other applications are pending.

The commission has also licensed dozens of recreational producers.

Ten testing laboratories have also been licensed, Marks said. Recently, the head of the agency that accredits labs that tests pot for pesticides, potency and other elements complained that the agency was overburdened and at the point of collapse.

Marks said those issues seem to have been resolved and that the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program, known as ORELAP, made a “heroic effort” in dealing with lab accreditation applications.

Marijuana sold legally in Oregon had been tested before, but now the labs must be accredited, and the packaging labeled with the lab results.

Products previously bought by retailers and sitting in back rooms and on shelves can be sold through March 2017. But items that shops buy after Oct. 1 must be tested under the new, more regulated system, Marks said.

The OLCC is also focusing on keeping names and labels on cannabis products from being attractive to children, Marks said.

Oregon, Alaska, Washington and Colorado have legalized recreational marijuana, and it is on the ballot in several other states in November.