Kortni Bettiol looks through the walk-up window at the west Salem location of Homegrown Oregon. (Jake Thomas/Salem Reporter)
The space is tight inside the west Salem location of Homegrown Oregon.
With social distancing guidelines in place, only two customers at a time are allowed in the cannabis retailer’s cramped sales area.
But those wanting a little more elbow room can step outside and purchase a joint, dab, flower or other product from the walk-up window at the store, located at located at 1077 Edgewater St N.W.
The window is one of just a handful across Oregon that have been allowed by state regulators in response to the pandemic. It could be a permanent change to the way Oregonians buy weed.
Alicia Smith, the owner of Homegrown Oregon, said that when the pandemic hit in March the store installed a plexiglass shield to separate staff from customers, along with other safety measures. She said she and her staff also started wondering if they could use a window on the building’s side to serve customers who don’t want to come into the confined space.
After petitioning the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, they were soon doing business through the window in March. Smith isn’t sure how many transactions the store has conducted through the window but estimates that it’s around a third of all sales.
“To me, it makes perfect sense, and I can't imagine the negative side to it,” she said.
All the same rules are in place for the window that normally apply to the store, Smith said. IDs are checked, on-site consumption is not allowed and there’s no loitering. Staff keep an eye on the window with a surveillance camera.
Homegrown Oregon has three stores in Salem and one in Portland. Smith said the Portland store is the only other location the company has that offers a walk-up window. She said that the two stores have walk-ups because their buildings just happened to have windows that would work.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission enacted a temporary rule after the pandemic hit that allows for curbside delivery of cannabis, similar to beer and wine. It also allowed walk-up service for cannabis sales as another way to minimize contact between customers and staff during the pandemic.
Mark Pettinger, spokesman for the commission, didn’t have a tally of how many stores have walk-ups. He said that the commission has opened up a process to make the rule allowing walk-up windows permanent.
At the window at Homegrown Oregon’s west Salem location, a “cash only” sign is posted next to menus of products for sale. The building's roof extend over the window, where products are passed through on a tray.
Kortni Bettiol, a production worker, said it’s been useful for customers who can’t wear masks because of medical conditions.
“We get comments daily about how convenient it is,” she said.
Smith said she hopes the walk-up is here to stay, noting it could be useful during future flu seasons.
Even during the upcoming rainy season, Smith expects the window to stay busy.
“I feel like the rain doesn’t deter Oregonians,” she said.
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Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.