Just got back from attending the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference in Eugene, Oregon. Usually, I’m speaking at events like these, so it was nice for once to be in the crowd listening to others impart their knowledge about best practices in the ever-changing MMJ scene.
Most of my time at this conference was spent talking to burgeoning entrepreneurs in the medical marijuana sector. In many ways, Oregon today feels much like Washington felt four years ago, immediately after Governor Gregoire vetoed key portions of SB 5073 that would have given Washington a regulated medical marijuana industry. That was a pretty scary time for all industry participants in Washington because the State had essentially pulled the rug out from under the industry at the behest of the Federal government. In Oregon, though the State has decided to clean up its dispensary laws, it actually did little to nothing to revise and/or clarify its production and processing laws, leaving a ragged, amorphous chain of distribution that could get growers, third party processors, and patients in big trouble.
After the conference concluded for the evening, I found myself in the company of four very talented, established Oregon (business and criminal) attorneys and yet none of us could get our heads around the alleged chain of distribution that now exists in Oregon for medical marijuana. Clearly, the laws allow a cannabis patient to designate a grower to cultivate the patient’s meds and then have that grower transfer those meds to the patient’s designated dispensary. But what about a patient who is not consuming dried flower and instead seeks to have his or her medicine processed into oils or edibles? Does Oregon’s current law allow a grower without its own processing arm to make oils and edibles use a third party to do so? We ultimately concluded (though not with a lot of confidence) that third party processing is not allowed.
The foregoing is but one of many issues not resolved by Oregon’s “dispensary law facelift.” Oregon’s decision to reform its MMJ laws one section at a time means that while dispensaries now enjoy the clarity that comes with well crafted regulations, their suppliers are still forced to deal with countless shades of grey.
So though I was excited to see so many informed business people at this Eugene event, I am concerned about Oregon having left so much so unclear for so many. Just as we did in Washington, our plan is to do what we can with the legislature and with lobbyists to try to reconcile the laws with reality, while at the same time, working with industry participants to navigate existing laws and preparing them for the better laws that are fairly certain to come.