Oregon Cannabis Association Event Discusses The Future Of Recreational Marijuana Sales


I attended the Oregon Cannabis Association's hosted happy hour on August 13th at the Killingsworth Dynasty, moderated by Amy Margolis of Emerge Law. Attendees received an update on current progress toward finalizing policy regarding legal cannabis sales in Oregon from Victor Salinas, head of marijuana policy for the City of Portland and Oregon Senator Ginny Burdick, who Co-Chairs the Joint Committee on Implementing Ballot Measure 91. The venue was packed, and according to the OCA Facebook page there were almost 175 people in attendance.

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Victor Salinas will be in charge of regulating cannabis in the City of Portland via the Marijuana Policy Program. The MPP has been working with Community Stakeholder Work Groups comprised of bureau representatives and community members to address everything from zoning and developing fees, to working with the fire and police bureaus finding ways for them to work effectively within the community. Zoning and building permit requirements will adhere to Oregon state requirements, Businesses will not be allowed to establish in residential zones, and retail stores will be held to the 1000 foot buffer between locations that medical marijuana dispensaries are currently held to, as well as following Oregon's statutory restrictions of keeping marijuana retail locations 1000 feet away from any compulsory education, or K-12 schools. However, it seems that these limitations will apply only to retail locations, and not to growers, processors, or wholesalers. Vertical integration will be allowed, so individuals or businesses will be able to hold producer, processor and retail licenses at the same time.

The fee structure for licensing recreational retail locations is still in development, but the city is now considering a $1500 annual licensing fee for dispensaries continuing to sell only medical marijuana, and a $2500 annual licensing fee for medical dispensaries choosing to also make recreational sales. Salinas stated that the primary focus of these fees is cost recovery for what it takes to run the regulatory program, which at this point is basically run by Salinas and Livability Programs Manager Theresa Marchetti, although the city is getting ready to hire another person to deal with the surge of applications that will be coming in the near future. To put these numbers into perspective, I looked into the OLCC fees a brewery or tavern pays to sell alcohol. For a brewery-public house to "sell malt beverages, wine, and cider to individuals in Oregon for consumption on or off the licensed business" the fees are $250 annually, plus a $2.60 Alcohol Server Education fee. For the license which most full-service restaurants obtain there is an annual fee of $400, plus the $2.60 fee, which allows the licensee to "Sell and serve distilled spirits, malt beverages, wine, and cider for consumption on the licensed premises." Off-premises sales licensing, which allows a business to "Sell factory-sealed containers of malt beverages, wine, and cider at retail to individuals in Oregon for consumption off the licensed premises" costs a mere $100 annually, and does not include the $2.60 Alcohol Server Education fee. While certain locations may require more than one of these OLCC licenses to run their business, the price of each license is dramatically lower than the licensing fees proposed to open a marijuana retail location. You can find full information on license types and fees for sale of alcohol through the OLCC website.

Regulating the new adult use market will be a challenge, and Senator Ginny Burdick gave us an idea of how the legislature will be interacting with OLCC as a checks and balances system, and allocating the funds that will come from the taxation of legal marijuana. Local county and city governments will be given the opportunity to opt out of allowing marijuana related businesses within their county or city limits, but those who do so will not receive any of the revenue generated by taxes on marijuana sales. However, if these areas choose to opt into the system in the future, they will have the same access to those funds as the areas that opted in from the beginning.

While it is still illegal to move marijuana across state lines, Senator Burdick expressed her desire to structure the Oregon recreational market in a way that will best prepare participants for an export based industry once the "inevitability" of federal legalization takes place. To do this, legislative process will work to make things easier for those who are participating within the legal market, and make things more difficult for those continuing to participate in the illegal market. Another goal of the committee will be to increase regulation of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program through more rigorous testing standards and increased accountability for medical growers, processors and dispensary owners.

Oregon's medical marijuana system will be facing changes in March of next year, due to amendments to Senate Bill 844. Urban grow locations will have a 48 plant limit, except growers who will be grandfathered in at the present limit of 96 plants. From my understanding, anyone looking to grow more plants than 48 will be required to apply for a license beginning in March of 2016. In residential areas there will be a new 12 plant limit, with a grandfathering in to the present limit of 24 plants. For each of these limits, the cutoff date to be grandfathered in is if those cards were registered before December 31st of 2014. In an attempt to avoid diversion of medical marijuana to the illegal market, medical growers will be subjected to inspections, will have to report regularly to the state, and will be required to maintain records for up to 7 years. Any violation of these rules allows the Oregon Health Authority to contact law enforcement.

Sam Chapman of New Economy Consulting ended the update with a reminder that it is the duty of participants in the legal cannabis industry to get involved in the politics that are shaping our industry. The unique process of legalizing an already firmly established underground market is going to be a complicated one, and it will require the participation of growers, processors, dispensary owners and all of the ancillary businesses that support the legal market. Adhering to the upcoming regulations is going to be an expensive and complicated endeavor, and anything that we can do to be involved in the process will help shape policy in favor of the industry. In areas that have opted out of legal marijuana sales, more supporters of legalization need to get involved in the process and respectfully approach local officials to make your voices heard. You can find the list of cities/counties that have have prohibited the establishment of Licensed Recreational Marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers, and/or retailers here.

It was great to hear from officials involved in the process of creating regulatory policy for legal marijuana sales, and there is still time to get involved. The first draft of these policies has been written, and the MPP committee is now taking this draft to town hall meetings to give the public a chance to comment. If you would like to provide input on these policies, you can attend the third town hall meeting August 27th at Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland, where there will be a 10 minute opportunity for the public to comment at the end. The City Council hearing September 16th at 2:00pm will also be open to the public. You can find the Marijuana Policy Public Process Timeline here, and if you would like to provide any comments or input on the upcoming policies but you can't make the these meetings, email your comments to marijuana@portlandoregon.gov, or reach them by phone at 503-823-4411, TTY 503-823-6868, and the Oregon Relay Service at (800) 735-2900. You can contact the office of Senator Ginny Burdock for any legislative related concerns at (503) 986-1718, or by email at: sen.ginnyburdick@state.or.us

Thank you to the Oregon Cannabis Association for use of their photos, and Killingsworth Dynasty for hosting this event! You can find information on upcoming events, and join the OCA at their website.

Photos from the OCA Facebook page:

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oregon cannabis association