At Church and State: Legislative Session Underway

By Anthony Taylor

Oregon Cannabis Connection

Anthony Taylor is the President of Compassionate Oregon and has unique access and insights into Oregon’s lawmaking process, much of which takes place in the Capitol building, near the corners of Church and State streets in Salem.

Well, another legislative session has begun and it is already moving at warp speed.

I have seen my share of legislative sessions, but the 79th session of the Oregon legislature is barely a week old and is moving faster than a short session, with legislators in committee from daylight to dark.

What does this mean for cannabis legislation? Already nearly 30 bills relating to cannabis have been introduced this session, with more on the way.

At a meeting on January 31 between “stakeholders” and the co-Chairs and other members of the Marijuana Regulation Committee goals for this session were stated as:

1. Streamlining the marijuana regulatory process by bringing it all under one agency.
2. Testing and pesticides.
3. Growing on rural residential lands.

In a departure from prior sessions and as a first step in ending the “Marijuana Committee,” some of the marijuana legislation will be assigned to other committees. For instance, SB 130, which eliminates the annual card fee for veterans who have a 50% service-connected disability, has been assigned to the Senate Veterans Committee. SB 305, dealing with sentencing, has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee.

Agency heads and legislators also have been told that the governor’s office wants cannabis legislation to be finished early, and some in Salem believe most cannabis legislation will be done by April 20, 2017.

What can we expect from this session when it comes to marijuana legislation?

Two bills—HB 2200 introduced by Rep. Lininger and SB 306 sponsored by Sen. Burdick—move all OMMP growers to OLCC and leave the registry under the care of OHA.

Two bills—SB 300 sponsored by Sen. Ferrioli and HB 2198 sponsored by Rep. Olson—create a new administrative body for the OMMP. SB 300 creates the Oregon Cannabis Commission and HB 2198 creates the Medical Use of Cannabis Board.

Both of the latter bills create a nine member panel appointed by the governor. These members must support medical marijuana and include patients, attending physicians, caregivers, medical growers, dispensary owners and researchers.

These four bills are getting a lot of bandwidth early on, but as other bills are introduced some may take center stage. We have heard there is a bill that will take on land use issues and Sen. Ferrioli’s bill requires cities and counties to grandfather in existing grow sites that were established prior to May of 2016.

Two things are very likely to happen this session. One, the Oregon Health Authority is not likely to oversee OMMP and some sort of shift will occur regarding medical growers. Whether they are absorbed by OLCC, left under OMMP under a different administrator or moved to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, more changes are ahead for the OMMP.

We can only hope that those members who still support Oregonians who use and need cannabis to make their lives better, who still support a path forward for medical growers to access the recreational market with their products, who still believe in and support cannabis becoming part of the Oregon healthcare landscape are able to withstand efforts to further reduce the OMMP and are successful in efforts to defend OMMP and the Oregonians it serves.

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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