Bill replaces Oregon Health Authority with new cannabis commission
By Keith Mansur
Oregon Cannabis Connection
The most important bill concerning Oregon’s medical marijuana program has passed through the legislature and is headed for the Governor’s desk. House Bill 2198, which passed the House on Wednesday cleared the Senate on Thursday as the Oregon legislature wrapped up its legislative session for the year. The bill creates a cannabis commission that will oversee the states medical marijuana program (OMMP), as well as a number of other significant modifications to the states beleaguered medical marijuana system. The Senate voted 18 for the bill and 12 against.
“The passage of House Bill 2198 gives the patients and their growers a great future,” said Anthony Taylor, the bills main advocate.
Taylor is the President of Compassionate Oregon, a patient advocacy organization. He drafted a much more complex bill, originally, but it ended up being a shell of its original language with many progressive changes being left out, including having the Oregon Department of Agriculture oversee the state’s medical marijuana grow sites. He kept fighting and still managed to get a bill through with many important changes.
“We would really like, at some point in the future, to see all the agricultural aspects of the cultivation and production of cannabis be overseen by the Department of Agriculture, the state agency best equipped to handle that sort of task,” Taylor explained about the provisions he drafted in the original language of HB 2198. “That would free up resources devoted to that by the OHA and the OLCC.”
According to the bill, the new Oregon Cannabis Commission will be comprised of 8 members appointed by the Governor, as well as The Public Health Officer (or their designee). Each member servea a 4 year term and the commission meets quarterly. It will oversee most of the OMMP program instead of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and remove much of their decision making.
The make-up must be as follows: A registry identification cardholder, A person designated to produce marijuana by a registry identification cardholder, An attending physician, A person representing the OHA; A person representing the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC); A local health officer, A law enforcement officer; A person knowledgeable about research proposal grant protocols.
Taylor explained that a new commission would be a welcomed change to the past administration of OMMP rules by the Health Authority telling Oregon Cannabis Connection, “We look forward to having an administrative body overseeing the medical marijuana patient program that will be responsive to the needs of the patients and report back to the legislature.”
In addition to the new commission, the bill makes a number of other changes. Most significantly it will allow for a registered marijuana grow site to transfer up to 20 pounds of excess cannabis into the OLCC recreational marijuana system. Currently there is no provision for medical cannabis to enter into the Oregon recreational system, only the OMMP system. A grower be part of the reporting program and registered with the OHA, but it will provide an avenue to the market for medical excess and help prevent diversion to the illicit market.
Other important changes effect grow sites. One will be to allow 2 medical patients to grow their full compliment of 12 mature plants at a single address, but more significantly, allows for unlimited immature plants under 24 inches tall. Another important fix is to allow tax lot numbers, GPS coordinates and means other than an actual address to be a legal “address” for a grow site.
The Governor will receive the bill by next week. She may sign it, but it will pass into law in 30 days unless she actually vetoes the bill.
You can read the final HB 2198 bill language here.