Oregon, Alaska, and D.C. Legalize Adult Use Marijuana. Congratulations!

After failing to legalize marijuana in November 2012, Oregon redeemed itself by passing Measure 91. Measure 91 legalizes recreational marijuana in Oregon and creates a state-lawful chain of distribution with licensed producers, manufacturers, and retailers. As we’ve previously blogged, we see Oregon as one of the next great opportunities in the marijuana industry. Alaska also legalized marijuana (and will tax and regulate it) by passing Ballot Measure 2. Similar to Oregon (and Washington and Colorado), Alaska is going to set up a licensing and registration system for marijuana businesses overseen by its Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. D.C. also came through in a big way by legalizing the use and possession of marijuana for adults 21 and over with the passage of Initiative 71. Despite this step forward, D.C. will not have regulated and licensed recreational marijuana businesses. And we do not yet know whether Congress will override the people’s vote or not — which it has the power to do.

Congratulations are due to Oregon and Alaska for passing what will likely become paradigms for free market marijuana legislation.

We only hope that in enacting their necessary regulations, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board do not veer too far from the ballot measures themselves. The following are just a few of the reasons why we are such big fans of Oregon’s Measure 91 and Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2:

  • Neither state is currently planning to impose a residency requirement. In other words, you can have no connection with Oregon or Alaska and yet set up a marijuana business there.
  • Neither measure limits the total number of licenses that can issue nor how many licenses any one business can hold. In other words, you are free to own a dispensary and a processing operation and a growing operation. Indeed, you are free to own any number of each of these.
  • In Oregon, the state taxes are the lowest of any state in the country and it is widely predicted that Oregon will remain the state with the lowest marijuana prices. Oregon’s measure also explicitly prohibits municipalities from tacking on their own taxes — though a number of Oregon cities already did so before Measure 91’s passage. Measure 91’s goal is to keep legal marijuana prices low so as to limit illegal market sales. Alaska will be imposing a $50 per ounce excise tax on the sale of marijuana from a marijuana cultivation facility to a retail marijuana store or to a marijuana product manufacturing facility. The cultivation facility will be responsible for that tax.
  • Oregon cities can ban marijuana businesses only by majority vote of city residents. Unfortunately, Alaska cities can ban cannabis outright through ordinance or by voter initiative.
  • Both states will allow delivery of cannabis to customers.

Our Canna Law Group team (please forgive the website; we just went live with the new version today and it is still far from finished) will be putting on a series of seminars to help get the word out regarding how both existing and potential marijuana businesses can get into Oregon and into Alaska. We will be putting on the first of these events in Portland on January 29, 2015, at the World Trade Center from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., with networking cocktail hour(s) to follow. Our Seattle seminar will be in February and our Anchorage one will be in early spring.

Having “been there, done that,” with I-502 in Washington (and having worked in multiple other states with legalized marijuana regimes), we will be imparting our knowledge regarding what you should do for Oregon and Alaska by way of corporate formation, regulatory compliance, changes in regulations, municipal authority, brand protection and trademark registration, mergers and acquisitions of cannabis businesses, and investment. Our Oregon and Alaska licensed attorneys will be at the respective events.

To register for our Portland seminar, click here. We will update this post shortly with more information about the Seattle and Anchorage events. Congratulations again to Oregon and Alaska (and D.C.) for helping to move us all one step closer to ending cannabis prohibition in the U.S. through meaningful regulation.