Marijuana Legislation Update: Some Have Made It, Many Are Out.

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By Anthony Taylor
of Compassionate Oregon

For Oregon Cannabis Connection

 

Well it certainly has been an interesting session for cannabis so far. With 34 marijuana bills and three hemp bills on deck it is another busy session for everyone. The number of marijuana lobbyists has fallen but those that are still at it are working hard.

The initial scare from the Trump administrations comments on marijuana pushed Sen. Prozanski’s to introduce SB 863 requiring all personal information gathered during a transaction in adult use stores be destroyed within 48 hours. This was proposed as a way to further protect consumers and patient privacy should federal policy change. It is also intended to limit the sale of this information to third parties for marketing purposes. The bill hit a rough spot during its first public hearing between Sen. Prozanski and Andre Ourso testifying for the Oregon Health Authority but an amended version passed quickly and unanimously. It is awaiting its third reading on the Senate Floor where it is expected to pass.

Rep. Carl Wilson of the Joint Committee on Marijuana. Image OLIS video

The public hearing on House Bill 2556, the perennial paraphernalia bill that had been reduced from four pages to three paragraphs finally prohibiting only the sale of ‘marijuana pipes’ to minors, broke into raucous laughter when Sen. Kruse regaled fellow committee members with stories of his useful indiscretions and how, in his opinion, just about anything from an apple to a soda can, could be considered a marijuana pipe.

Local glass blowers presented beautiful pieces they considered art but that also served another purpose. The members oohed and aahhed, pictures were taken for the record and Committee Co-Chair Ginny Burdick was reminded how much more valuable the glass bong she received from fellow Senators after the 2015 session would be if it remained unused.

Rep. Hack, who had introduced the bill at the request of a constituent, left the hearing promising to give it another look before coming back to the Committee.

Senate Bill 301 provides that conditioning employment on refraining from using any substance that is lawful to use in this state is unlawful employment practice. There is a great deal of debate on this bill with the usual work place and public safety concerns facing off against the primary argument that it is employment discrimination to be able to terminate employment because of a positive drug screen for a legal substance. It is before Senate Judiciary with a work session scheduled for April 18th.

Senate Bills 302 and 303 adjusting sentencing and penalties were both passed unanimously by the Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation early. SB 302 contains the major changes to Oregon’s Controlled Substances Act for sentencing this session and has already passed the Senate. SB 303 creates Minor in Possession for marijuana and is on the Governor’s desk. Both bills are expected to be signed.

Senate Bill 307 and 788 are the big social use and consumption bills and are getting a lot of attention and work but have stalled temporarily. Work in private between stakeholders on reaching a compromise, however, may result in one or both bills getting through this session. Sam Chapman is working SB 307 while Portland NORML has been pushing SB 788. We should all be paying attention to this one.

Leland Berger of Portland NORML. Image: Keith Mansur

Senate Bill 845 and House Bills 2203 and 2204 relate to taxes. SB 845 and HB 2203 redistribute the state marijuana tax revenue in a 50/50 split between counties and cities. HB 2204 allows counties and cities to adopt up to an 8% local tax rather than the 3% now in place on adult use sales. This can be done without a vote of the people and goes direct to the city or county. These bills are working their way through House and Senate Revenue Committees. The House bills have a work session scheduled for April 11th and will probably be moved by the Committee.

Senate Bill 1014 requires marijuana items seized pursuant to a violation of law be turned over to a non-profit dispensary and made available for free or at discounted prices. A public hearing was held on this bill in Senate Judiciary and a work session is scheduled for April 18th. This bill was introduced by Sens. Feriolli and Burdick and signed onto by the rest of the Committee but needs a lot of work. Two things here, there aren’t any non-profit dispensaries, and law enforcement just doesn’t seize much marijuana anymore especially pursuant to an OLCC license violation.

There are two land use bills, SB 873 and HB 2747, one introduced by the Committee and the other by Rep. Wilson. Neither of these bills are moving yet but land use is a tough problem complicated by the patchwork of 36 different land-use ordinances from 36 different counties. Some allow adult use licenses and others don’t and in those that do land use ordinances prevent OLCC licenses in certain zones.

Frankly, it’s a mess that until resolved will leave nearly 8,000 medical growers across Oregon unable to obtain an OLCC license even if they wanted to due to local land-use ordinances or flat out prohibition on OLCC licenses.

HB 2372 is the Oregon Hemp Commission bill and it is moving forward with a work session on April 13th in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

At the midway point of the 2017 session three bills still remain that are still expected to come before the committee. SB 1042 and 1057 and HB 2198 are important bills to marijuana regulation and patients in Oregon and are expected to get a great deal of attention as they work through the process.

SB 1042 authorizes the Governor to enter into agreement with another state for purpose of cross-jurisdictional coordination and enforcement of marijuana-related businesses is important to everyone and is the next step in Oregon’s expansion into what is eventually hoped to be a national market. It should also allow patients greater freedom in traveling with their medicines.

Anthony Taylor, Compassionate Oregon, At Church and State, Oregon Cannabis Connection, OMMBC
Anthony Taylor speaking at the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference in 2015. Image Keith Mansur, Oregon Cannabis Connection

HB 2198 which, as introduced, would by create a new body to administer the OMMP rather than OHA and also requiring OMMP growers growing for others to register with the Department of Agriculture in the same manner as hemp farmers now do while continuing to grow under OMMP rules. HB 2198 is now being amended to create a new rulemaking body for the OMMP program and the authority to direct any revenues generated by fees to enhance patient services and provide other revenues for projects such as integrating cannabis into mainstream medicine.

The original bill was amended with a proposal that was dubbed the “urge to merge” bill adopting an earlier proposal by OLCC trying to adopt ideas that came out of the stakeholder workgroup. This would have put all cultivation, processing and dispensaries under OLCC leaving only the card registry under OHA. This amendment received little support from industry or patients and did not have enough majority support on the committee to proceed and is no longer on the table.

However, SB 1057 introduced by Sens. Burdick and Feriolli through the Senate Rules Committee contains many of the same provisions as the -1 amendment to HB 2198 but to a lesser degree. Considered the ‘technical fix’ bill to address OLCC concerns and do a little housekeeping.

While SB 1057 does not change patient possession limits per se, it limits Oregon households to six medical plants and the number of immature plants to 12 no matter how many patients reside at an address. This would also include the four recreational plants as well but is another attempt to limit the amount of medical marijuana being produced by medical growers. This bill will have a public hearing on April 11th and it is expected to be well attended.

As we come to the half-way mark of this legislative session some bills are proceeding through the process, some are stalled and others have not yet had their day. The deadline to schedule bills for hearings is approaching so many of the bills introduced will die in committee and the more interesting ones will continue to find their way to the Governor’s desk before sine die.

© 2017 Oregon Cannabis Connection. All rights reserved.

Anthony Taylor

Anthony Taylor is a longtime Oregon marijuana activist and a founder of Compassionate Oregon, one of Oregon's most important medical marijuana patient advocacy groups.

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