Oregon Marijuana Law FAQs

Given the likelihood that Oregon will in November become the next state to legalize recreational marijuana (we also expect legalization to pass in Alaska), we figured it would be helpful to answer the ten most common questions our cannabis business lawyers receive regarding marijuana law in Oregon. Over the next few weeks we will do similar posts for all of the states in which we have licensed attorneys and in which there are things to report (Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, and New York).

1.  What should I be doing now to prepare for the impending legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon?

Without knowing how Oregon will allocate recreational marijuana licenses, how many licenses will be issued, or whether current medical marijuana license holders will be given priority for recreational licenses, this is a tough question to answer. Oregon’s legalization bill leaves these sort of things up to its state Liquor Control Commission.

Gaining a foothold in Oregon’s existing medical marijuana market may be a smart move. However, it can be quite difficult to acquire a physical location for a medical marijuana dispensary that complies with state MMJ facility and zoning requirements, and that has not already been snapped up by another dispensary owner. With scarcity of compliant spaces to lease, many have opted to purchase real estate in an acceptable location. One way to prepare for impending legalization is to nail down a location that meets MMJ facility zoning requirements, and is more than 1000 feet from any school or other MMJ retail location. The thinking is that those locations will work for recreational marijuana as well, and that those already in the business will receive favorable treatment when it comes time to hand out recreational marijuana licenses.

2.  Will Oregon’s recreational marijuana laws be similar to those in Washington and Colorado?

As we discussed in our previous post, Oregon Recreational Cannabis Down to One Initiative, New Approach Oregon’s Initiative 53 is fairly similar to Initiative 502, which passed last year in Washington State. Oregon’s initiative puts the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in charge of adopting rules and regulations for implementing and administering Oregon’s recreational system. Therefore, although the OLCC will no doubt look to Washington and Colorado for input in developing its own recreational regulations, the precise nature of Oregon’s future recreational system cannot yet be known.

3.  Can I still apply for a license to operate a dispensary under Oregon’s medical marijuana laws?

Yes. Applications have been accepted on a rolling basis since March 3, 2013. There is no defined application window, and there is no limit to the number of dispensaries, so long as they comply with MMJ facility zoning regulations.

4.  How many dispensaries has Oregon approved under its revised medical marijuana rules?

To date, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program has approved 155 dispensary applications.

5.  Once Oregon legalizes recreational marijuana, how long will it be until the first retail locations are up and running?

After passage of the initiative, Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission will have until January 1, 2016 to develop rules and regulations for implementing and administering the State’s recreational system. The latest the OLCC will be authorized to begin accepting applications is January 4, 2016. Of course, this is only the beginning of the application process. If Oregon proves to be anything like Washington, it will be several months later before any retail locations are up and running. If we were forced to predict when the first recreational marijuana is legally sold in Oregon, we would say early 2016.

6.  Can Oregon cities and counties ban medical marijuana dispensaries?

Yes. At last count, 146 of Oregon’s 242 incorporated cities and 26 of 36 counties had enacted moratoria on medical marijuana dispensaries. It is important to remember that recreational marijuana is not yet legal anywhere in Oregon. Though it remains to be seen how cities and counties will react to the legalization of recreational marijuana, the current list of moratoria on the Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program website is a good indicator of which cities and counties are more or less marijuana friendly, and where moratoria may be enacted on recreational dispensaries (and producers and processors) in 2016.

7.  Can I open a dispensary in Oregon if I am an out of state resident?

The Person Responsible for the Facility (PRF), meaning the person who owns, operates or otherwise has legal responsibility for the facility, must be an Oregon resident. This person must provide proof of residency during the application process. Other investors, however, need not be Oregon residents.

8.  What’s going to happen with medical marijuana in Oregon once recreational marijuana is legalized?

The New Approach Oregon Initiative provides that it shall “not amend or affect in any way the function, duties and powers of the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.” However, given that Washington’s new recreational regime has supplanted its former medical system, there is no guarantee that Oregon’s medical system will not also be absorbed into a new, tightly regulated recreational system. Since Oregon taxes on recreational marijuana are going to be considerably lower than the rates in Washington, the need for a separate medical system will be less in Oregon than in Washington.

9.  What are the labeling requirements for marijuana products in Oregon?

Broadly speaking, labels must include the amount of THC and CBD in any usable marijuana product. If prepackaged, the label must include the weight or volume of usable marijuana in each unit, in metric units. The label must also include potency information and a warning label for children. As cannabis lawyers, we cannot urge you strongly enough to make sure that what you sell in Oregon (or in any other state) is labelled clearly and packaged safely. For more on why we feel so strongly on this, check out the following:

10. Can I procure product for my dispensary from out of state?

No. Possessing, using, distributing and selling marijuana are all federal crimes and transporting marijuana across state lines constitutes drug trafficking and could land you in jail. This is true of all states; you must get your product from within your own state.