By Brent Kenyon
For Oregon Cannabis Connection
If you’re not dizzy yet, get ready. The state of our cannabis union seems to be mostly confusion. After hundreds of hours of free lobbying and work with Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), I can honestly say that even I am having a hard time keeping up with the massive amount of legislative changes and internal rulemaking. If you call OHA three times in a row and ask the same question, you most likely will get three different answers—yet only one might be right.
As for OLCC, I can say that they seem to be the most competent to handle all of this transition, partly because of their commitment to work with and get information from the industry, which is seemingly working well. I don’t want to paint too dark a picture because, after all, this is the end of the second big prohibition, and what a mess the first one was. Fortunately, we are not dealing with gangsters with Tommy guns protecting their territory, mostly just some useless hate toward competitors when we all should be standing side by side and focusing on making sure we have a successful launch of this new economy in our beloved Oregon.
As I see it, now things are slightly behind as the latest legislative changes have thrown a few wrenches into the works, but the agency has done a good job. They have sorted through this bag of crap that was handed off to them from a seemingly “anxious-to-go-on-vacation” group of legislators who rushed some poorly worded legislation through that essentially derailed many things, including the medical opt-in language! That provision allows a medical grower to come into the rec system and still continue to be able to care for their patients. However, the excess grown beyond what you give your patients cannot be sold into the rec system as originally planned, it would have to go to the dwindling medical marketplace only.
I am confident that many of these provisions will be fixed in the next legislative session, but that is almost a year away and we will have changes to the scene in the meantime. I hope it will not badly affect the folks we have been working with to make this all happen, something that should remind us all to get involved locally and at the state level with our decision-makers.
One good aspect is that, for now, people can apply at OLCC and whatever medical plant amount they have will just fall right into their recreational canopy limit and the change will be mostly painless.
The fees at OLCC reflect the cost of tracking and staff time used for this program since the legislators refused to give OLCC a budget and forced them to be financially self-reliant. This means we have to pony up from the industry to fund our own program. This is not unlike what the OHA has done for years, but the difference is that they have a budget and the money. We pay them—as you all know—and it doesn’t get us much in the way of customer service, and most of the money is taken for other state programs that don’t necessarily benefit the patients the program is suppose to serve.
The preliminary figure I was given is around $750.00 for the tracking and basic registration. Above that, it is for staffing and other costs of inspections, training and public education. Fees are from as low as $1,500 for a micro canopy to upwards around $6,000 for a tier 2 (one acre) outdoor garden or 10,000 sq. foot indoor garden. All of these fees may be reviewed on the OLCC website. And, they will actually answer the phone if you call and have questions! (That’s hard to believe since the OHA staff are mostly too “busy” to bother with our questions.)
For now, the plan is to get the ball rolling for the farmers and labs licensed prior to the wholesale producers, processors, retailers, and the research folks start. As of the beginning of April, applications are in at OLCC for four labs, 563 producers, 144 retailers, 41 wholesalers, 63 processors, and one research facility at.
For me, because of the seemingly “on purpose” foot dragging at OHA—whom we know couldn’t care less about the medical program—we must assume, at this point, that the small but bright light at the end of the initial tunnel is the newfound hope for our resilient industry with the OLCC.
I am so proud to be part of the industry here in Oregon. Along with many in this movement, we will fight and ultimately preserve our way of life, and build the largest economic boom this state, or this country, has seen in over 100 years. As for now friends, I would say the “state of our cannabis union” is mostly good, but we have a lot of work to do to make it what we all know it can be.
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