The Oregon legislative session began on Monday. Because 2018 is an even-numbered calendar year, this session is a short session, lasting just 35 days. That fact hasn’t stopped Oregon democrats from targeting ambitious policy objectives like cap-and-trade, along with a host of other items that will likely not get done. As to cannabis, there won’t be much movement, despite persistent rumors and calls for a limitation on license issuances, and the calls for an uptick in enforcement dollars.
Last year, Oregon kicked off the legislative session with 30 or so draft cannabis bills. This year, we have four. Two of them are likely to go nowhere and two may pass if things go well, but with significant modifications. The aptly named Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation dissolved last session, which means that cannabis will get even less attention than before. Still, its former co-chair and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick presides over the rules committee, and for that reason alone, we expect these bills get some play.
Below is the 2018 list, including links to each bill. As a reminder, text in bold typeface is proposed new language, and text in [italicized and bracketed] typeface is language that would be removed from existing statutes.
This bill would remove the 24-inch height limitation on immature plants produced for medical purposes. (Today, medical growers can theoretically have infinite starts.) It would also change the possession limit on immature marijuana plants for registered medical growers and for those responsible for medical grow sites. Finally, the bill proposes to exempt processors from testing requirements in the limited context of processing for a medical marijuana cardholder or that cardholder’s caregiver.
Will this bill pass? It’s possible, but if it does, it will probably look a lot different than it does today. SB 1544 is the “gut and stuff bill” we previously anticipated: it is rife for amending and may look different a few weeks from today. The changes related to medical starts are likely to stay, because this is something the feds are said to have noted as missing from the medical program. We may also see clean-up of language clarifying whether a person can be a designated grower for his or her own home grow under Oregon Health Authority (OHA) rules, and other minor issues. But the chance of consensus on multiple, high-impact issues is small.
This one has been moving along, with a few amendments already made. It will not impact Oregon cannabis industry players much, however, as it merely modifies the percentage allocation of marijuana tax revenues among various state beneficiaries. This one is an “emergency” bill, for what it’s worth, which means it would take effect immediately on passage.
This bill would allow the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to issue temporary “special events” licenses to qualified marijuana processors, producers, retailers and wholesalers. People have advocated for event licensing seemingly forever, but this is not an issue where consensus is easily gathered. For that reason, and because the session is so short, we give this bill a very low chance of going anywhere. If it surprises us, though, this one is also an emergency bill and would take effect immediately.
This is another emergency bill, but it relates to industrial hemp and not marijuana. It’s a big, multifaceted bill that was brought by the Oregon Industrial Hemp Farmers Association, and, like the recent OLCC rule amendments, it does a lot to shore up the state’s hemp program. As with SB 1544, we anticipated this bill a few weeks back. Here are the highlights:
- Provides for OHA labs to test industrial hemp and related commodities;
- Authorizes OLCC to enforce provisions of hemp laws that incorporate provisions of marijuana laws;
- Changes the description of the limit on production and storage of homegrown cannabis plants;
- Allows the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to adopt rules establishing higher average THC limits for industrial hemp if a higher average concentration limit is established by federal law;
- Establishes a university pilot program to label and certify hemp seed; and
- Establishes an Industrial Hemp Fund and appropriates money for administering hemp statutes.
For all it does, however, HB 4089 may be more notable for what it does not cover. Those items include:
- A provision limiting the ability of hemp growers to sell high THC products;
- A bill-of-lading, transport, or manifest requirement for ODA permittees similar to that for OLCC licensees; and
- Tracking provisions related to the movement of hemp into OLCC channels.
We expect the legislature to look at these possible additions to HB 4089 and more, and we expect this bill to pass in some form. For now, though, it’s time to kick back and watch. We will report with a summary next month, at the end of the session.