Anthony Taylor Executive Director of Compassionate Oregon Oregonians voted to allow adult recreational use of marijuana on November 4, 2014, and in some precincts in Multnomah County it passed by nearly 90%.So what’s next for activists, businesses, the State and the citizens who will be able to possess and grow marijuana starting in July of 2015 and legally buy marijuana in Oregon stores sometime in July of 2016?
Businesses, activists and trade organizations have already hired lobbyists and begun working on legislation for the 2015 session. The State is beginning to put things in motion as well trying to manage both medical and recreational as efficiently as possible. Meanwhile the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is gearing up and anticipates adding over 40 staff positions to administer the State’s retail marijuana market.
According to sources in Salem, over fifty legislative concepts relating to marijuana are being considered for pre-session filing. These are proposed legislative concepts from members, committees, agencies and commissions, law enforcement and the cannabis community at large, which are ready to be introduced as bills when session starts. While many will never become bills and even fewer will become law, legislators have their work cut out for them when it comes to marijuana legislation.
Much of their work will revolve around implementing Measure 91. Some of their work will focus on modifications and a broadening of the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program, to allow for licensing growers producing exclusively for the dispensary market, and finally some attention will be given to changes to strengthen and expand the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP).
What the OMMP will look like when all is said and done is yet to be determined, but if the questions asked at the recent Interim Committee on OLCC are any indication, legislators will look at legalization as a way to rid the state of a program they have long considered problematic and advocates of the program will have a lot of work ahead.
Sen. Girod (R): “…can we do away with Oregon Medical Marijuana Program if we’re going to legalize marijuana? It only makes sense from an economic perspective to do this and does the act prohibit us from doing that?” OLCC: “It is a policy question that is going to be on the forefront of many minds…. It is a policy issue that many agencies, that I’m sure the legislature will be looking at for the reasons you just described.”
They went on to say, “We’re aware of many, many conversations going on about efficiencies potentially to be gained by some regulatory consolidation at every level.” How these programs will all fit together remains to be seen. The OLCC will begin a statewide “listening” tour in late January to get a sense of what the public—pro and con—thinks retail sale of marijuana to adults should look like and whether it should exist along with the medical marijuana program or absorb it over the long term.
Proponents of the OMMP and patient advocates will have to work hard to remain independent from recreational use, while at the same time trying to improve the program. Proponents of recreational use will try to carve out as much of the market as they can and the State will try to regulate both while attempting to streamline the process to minimize fiscal impact and maximize revenue and public safety.
Authors Note: The Department of Agriculture has issued a “notice of proposed rulemaking and proposed rule-making hearing” to finally getting the ball rolling on the “Production and Handling of Industrial Hemp,” in Oregon including the regulation of hemp seed. This is the third leg of the stool for marijuana policy reform and it remains to be seen how the regulation of hemp will impact medical and recreational use of marijuana in Oregon.
The first hearing on these rules will be held January 6, 2015 at the Dept. of Agriculture Bldg. in Salem. Anthony Taylor is a long-time activist and in 1984, became Oregon’s first paid lobbyist for marijuana reform. He is currently a co-founder of Compassionate Oregon and serves as its legislative liaison.
His work in the last two sessions resulted in adding PTSD to the medical program and sentencing reform for recreational users. He continues to work in Salem and is working this session on legislation to help strengthen the program.