By Art Cosgrove
Oregon Cannabis Connection
House Bill 2198 has been introduced for the 2017 Oregon legislative session. Starting with a name change for the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) to the OLCC (Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission), the meat of this legislation comes toward the end. That’s where it stops the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) from registering cannabis grow operations and shifts these responsibilities to the Department of Agriculture (DOA).
Reached for comment, DOA Cannabis Policy Coordinator Sunny Jones brought attention to the relative youth of the bill.
“The Department does not have an official position on the bill. Having said that, there is a lot of time left in the session and bills—as I’m sure you know—tend to go through a lot of changes during a session,” said Jones in an email.
Based on this past October’s hand off of recreational duties from OHA to OLCC, many dispensaries in the state are likely sweating this one. If growers are not informed and assertive on their own behalf, they might find themselves having licensure or stocking issues that lead to major loss of business.
Jones stressed that the Department doesn’t have the funds yet to do anything but await more information from the legislature. “Session is ongoing through the end of June. It’s still really preliminary. We would start working toward something if it was getting to the end of and we had some confidence it would pass the way it was written.”
But the Department already does a lot of work with cannabis, and doesn’t seem too worried about taking over more responsibilities. “If we were tasked with doing it and were provided the funding, we would take it on,” said Jones.
Among other cannabis-related duties, the DOA already works with growers in terms of what pesticides they can use on cannabis crops. Because cannabis is essentially unrecognized as a legal crop by the federal government, things can be tricky for growers.
“The feds regulate pesticides: where those chemicals can be used and what crops they can be used on,” said Jones. She continued, “Some chemicals are exempt from the requirement of a tolerance—basically the residue level that can be on a crop when you harvest it—so we’ve put together a guide-list of chemicals we feel it would not be illegal to use [for cannabis growers]. We’re not saying they’re safe; we’re not saying that we encourage their use. Just that it would be within the legal framework as it is today.”
To be included on this list, pesticides must pass a three-step test that includes exemption from tolerance, label language must be broad enough for use on edible crops and have a passing grade on a pyrology test (a test of what happens to the chemical when it’s burned).
In terms of adding the relatively broad new responsibilities of regulating growers beyond pesticides and edibles, Jones shows no signs that she is concerned that the DOA can’t handle the transition.
She was clear in her response; “Regardless of which state agency regulates cannabis growers, there is still the overarching federal Cole Memo that the state of Oregon must ensure is being met. If it were to pass, the Department would work with OHA and OLCC to continue that compliance.”
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