At Church and State: The Oregon Cannabis Commission

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By Anthony Taylor

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. Everything shared here are personal opinions and not in his official capacity as President of Compassionate Oregon or the Oregon Cannabis Commission, on which Anthony now serves.

HB 2198 established a new kid on the block by creating Oregon’s Cannabis Commission. In November, its members were confirmed and on Friday, December 8, 2107, the Oregon Cannabis Commission held its first meeting. Members began by electing Dr. Esther Choo as their first Chairperson and Dr. Rachel Knox as the first Vice-chair. Both women are excellent choices for this new commission and as its inaugural leadership as it begins its four-year journey as the new face of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

Dr. Choo is a highly respected research specialist from OHSU and Dr. Rachel Knox is a strong advocate for patients and integrating cannabis into the health care and treatment options for Oregonians. She shares a cannabis practice with her parents, Drs. Janice and David Knox, and her sister Jessica from their Tigard office.

Oregon Cannabis Commission
Oregon Cannabis Commission first meeting Dec 8, 2017. Image: Sunnie Sanchez

Also on the Commission: Andre Ourso, representing the Oregon Health Authority; Jesse Sweet, Oregon Liquor Control Commission; Katrina Hedberg, Oregon Public Health Officer; Dr. Patrick Luedtke, local public health officer; and Anthony Taylor, patient advocate. Still to be confirmed are Sarah Bennett and a law enforcement officer who has not been nominated yet.

The commission is required to meet at least once every quarter at a time and place they determine They also may meet at other times and places specified by call of the chairperson or of a majority of the members of the commission.

Oregon Cannabis Commission, OHA, OMMP, First Meeting
(L to R) Dr. Rachel Knox the new Vice-Chair, Andre Ourso of OHA and Anthony Taylor. Image Sunnie Sanchez

The Oregon Cannabis Commission shall determine:

  • A possible framework for the future governance of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, including:

    • Proper oversight and regulation of each of the following:
    • Registry identification cardholders and designated primary caregivers, as those terms are defined in ORS 475B.410; (ii) Attending physicians, as defined in ORS 475B.410;
    • Marijuana grow sites, as defined in ORS 475B.410;
    • Marijuana processing sites, as defined in ORS 475B.410; and
    • Medical marijuana dispensaries, as defined in ORS 475B.410;
  • Necessary amendments to the laws of the state pertaining to cannabis, including any necessary amendments to ORS 475B.010 to 475B.395 and 475B.400 to 475B.525; and

  • The future role of the commission with respect to the possible framework.

The state must take steps, whether administrative or legislative in nature, to ensure that research on cannabis and cannabis-derived products is being conducted for public purposes, including determination of:

  • A possible framework for the future governance of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program under subsection (1)(a) of this section, the commission shall consider:

    • Public health policy and public safety policy;
    • Agronomic and horticultural best practices; and
    • Medical and pharmacopoeia best practices.
  • The impact of federal laws, regulations and policies on the possible framework

  • Potential factors that could prevent access to cannabis for medical use;

  • Potential laws and rules that will facilitate access to cannabis for medical use;

For purposes of making recommendations for legislation under subsection (3) of this section, after the effective date of this 2017 Act and on or before December 15, 2017, the commission may request an interim committee of the Legislative Assembly related to health or judiciary to direct the Legislative Counsel to prepare legislative concepts for the commission’s consideration.

In addition to other duties prescribed by law, the Oregon Cannabis Commission shall: Provide advice to the Oregon Health Authority with respect to the administration of ORS 475B.400 to 475B.525;

  • Provide advice to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission with respect to the administration of ORS 475B.010 to 475B.395, insofar as those statutes pertain to registry identification cardholders and designated primary caregivers, as those terms are defined in ORS 475B.410;

  • Develop a long-term strategic plan for ensuring that cannabis will remain a therapeutic option for persons with debilitating medical conditions as defined in ORS 475B.410;

  • Develop a long-term strategic plan for ensuring that cannabis will remain affordable for persons with debilitating medical conditions as defined in ORS 475B.410; and

  • Monitor and study federal laws, regulations, and policies regarding marijuana.

Oregon Medical Marijuana patients and growers should pay close attention to this commission as it moves forward with its duties and creates a vision for the future of the OMMP. As a member of this Commission, I look forward to a robust dialogue as the Commission begins to hear from patients and providers alike over the next several months and years.

Most members are already familiar with the OMMP but, as with all new endeavors, the members will have a learning curve. I have a comprehensive understanding of the OMMP, for instance, but my knowledge is lacking on how to approach and enable medical associations and other state agencies to come to an across-the-board approach to the role of cannabis in medicine and how to structure laws, rules, and policies as cannabis plays a more active role in treatment of a wide range of conditions. We are all on the same team here, including those in the medical cannabis community, to ensure the success of Oregon’s Cannabis Commission. I look forward to the opportunity to help this Commission address cannabis as medicine for all Oregonians.

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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