Oregon Legislature Passes Comprehensive Marijuana Bill On Last Day of Session

The bill allows the reallocation of taxes to law enforcement and makes almost a dozen other changes to Oregon marijuana regulations

A comprehensive short session bill that contains many provisions passed the Senate today by a 26-3 vote and the House 49 to 8. Senate Bill 1544 received overwhelming bi-partisan support due to the grant funding program set up which skims tax revenue from marijuana sales to help pay for law enforcement efforts relating to illegal marijuana “markets”. The bill also contains a number of important provisions not related to law enforcement, a fact Senator Burdick’s office neglected to mention in their factually incorrect press release.

“The best way to protect our lawful businesses from federal intervention is to have a secure, closed loop system. Unlawful producers and distributors are creating difficulties by acting outside of our regulated market.” Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, said in the press release. “The Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant Program will help local law enforcement prevent unlawful cultivation and distribution in their communities, which is an important step toward solving this issue.”

The factually incorrect portion of the press release stated, “Last year, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo.” That is not true. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions did not rescind the Cole Memo until January 4th, 2018 … this year.

Anthony Taylor of Compassionate Oregon worked closely with legislators drafting the original bill, Senate Bill 1544 (SB 1544). The original draft included no provision for law enforcement reimbursement. It was the Association of Oregon Counties, and their legal counsel Rob Bovett, that was responsible for the -11 amendment that allows local jurisdictions to skim marijuana tax money for law enforcement. Taylor was pleased with almost every other provision in the bill.

“Compassionate Oregon is pleased to have worked on this bill and with others who contributed as well,” explained Taylor. “We are encouraged by this legislation that will allow for an OMMP grower to be singularly responsible for a grow site which will help reduce the financial impact entering the Cannabis Tracking System might have had on OMMP growers.”

“SB 1544 also clearly defines OMMP grow sites as non-commercial – a change that will have a positive impact for growers in counties that are trying to adopt this approach in an effort to restrict medical grows within their jurisdiction,” Taylor added. “Clarifying this will also reduce costs for OMMP growers and reducing these costs will help patients facing ever-increasing costs for their medicines.”

In addition to the new “Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant Program”, the bill also makes a number of other changes, some of which are needed while others are debatably unnecessary.

– Allows a local government that has entered into an agreement with the state for the collection, enforcement, administration, and distribution of local taxes on marijuana retailers to disclose payment distribution amounts.

– Allows an OLCC-licensed producer who is registered with OLCC to produce medical marijuana to provide immature plants to a person responsible for a medical marijuana grow site registered with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), a medical marijuana cardholder, or a primary caregiver of a cardholder.

– Requires that medical-grade marijuana products supplied for a fee by a licensed processor registered with OLCC meet certain concentration standards. Exempts these products from certain labeling and packaging requirements and standards.

– Requires a medical marijuana grow site with a physical postal address to state that address in its application for registration. A grow site lacking a physical postal address must provide assessor’s map information, city, county, zip code, and either geolocation information or the tax lot number with its application for registration.

– Increases, from four to eight, the number of cardholders for whom a registered grow site may produce medical marijuana and directs OHA to prescribe by rule the number of immature plants under 24 inches tall that may be grown by persons and at sites.

– Exempts grow sites that grow for no more than two medical cardholders from the Oregon Cannabis Tracking System (OCaTS).

– Provides that a registered grow site producing for cardholders is not to be considered a commercial grow site solely because it is in the tracking system.

– Extends the timeframe in which the Oregon Cannabis Commission must make certain determinations and recommendations to the legislature.

– Allows marijuana retailers and medical dispensaries established before August 1, 2017 to be located within 1,000 feet of a school.

– Specifies new labeling requirements for products sold by licensed marijuana retailers that are derived from industrial hemp and that contain more than 0.3 % tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Defines any industrial hemp product with a THC content of greater than .3% as marijuana and requires destruction or sale through a recreational marijuana retailer.

One notable change, mentioned in the last point above, is to the Hemp rules. It is now a matter of law that all “hot” extractions from hemp or hemp flower is considered “marijuana” and subject to all the rules of the OLCC or it must be destroyed. A “hot” hemp prioduct is one with a THC level over 0.3%.

The bill now goes to the Governor for her signature, and she is expected to enthusiastically sign it.

© 2018 Oregon Cannabis Connection. All rights reserved.

Keith Mansur

Keith Mansur is the founder, publisher, and editor of Oregon Cannabis Connection newspaper. The print publication has been serving Oregon since 2010. He has been a Oregon medical marijuana patient, grower, and caregiver since 2006. Find him on Facebook or email him at occnewspaper420@gmail.com

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