Oregon Marijuana Laws: The Legislative Roundup

Oregon cannabis laws: watching the sausage get made.
Oregon cannabis laws: watching the sausage get made.

When Oregon began its short legislative session last Monday, four cannabis bills were teed up for consideration. Throughout the week, the bills competed for attention with marquee pieces of draft legislation, including proposals to raise the state minimum wage, ease its housing crisis, restrict gun sales, and help stop global warming. All bills are available for review on the Oregon State Legislature website.

Short sessions are curious affairs, first approved by Oregon voters just six years ago. The sessions are designed to permit the Legislature to address key budgetary issues and emergencies. In this session’s case, anything not signed into law within a 35-day window dies, or is tabled until the next full session. This means we will know the outcome of changes in Oregon cannabis law no later than March 6. Here is a rundown of the cannabis bills.

HB 4132. This is a small bill. It prohibits marijuana retailers from collecting tax from medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers.

SB 1511. This is a big one. It would allow recreational marijuana stores to sell tax-free medical marijuana to patients. It also would allow anyone 21 and older (not just OMMP cardholders) to buy marijuana-infused edibles and concentrates during the state’s so-called early sales program. Because standards for edible products will be finalized soon via OHA rulemaking, and because co-location is a great idea that feels pretty much inevitable, we hope this bill makes it through as written.

HB 4014. This is another big one. HB 4014 deals with everything from lifting crummy residency requirements for both the medical and recreational programs, to adjusting criminal sentencing laws related to controlled substances. Among other provisions, HB 4014 would also: tweak the fee structure and security requirements for licensed businesses; protect information submitted by recreational license applicants from public disclosure; allow the governor to enter into compacts with tribes who wish to grow and process pot; and even add an “open container” law for people driving with pot in their cars. Overall, we like this bill.

HB 4094. This one exempts financial institutions that service marijuana accounts from criminal prosecution under Oregon law. Though that sounds great, it seems unlikely that a state with a legal pot program would prosecute a local bank. Also, the bill does nothing to ease the near crippling complications for banks wishing to service pot accounts under federal law, or protect banks from federal liability for cannabis account servicing (each of which is beyond the state legislature’s purview, anyway). But, it’s something.

All bills declare an emergency and would be effective on passage. The next work session for HB 4094 is February 8 at 9:00 a.m.; for HB 4014, it is February 9 at 1:00 p.m. All meetings are streamed online at the Legislature’s web site. Typically, as bills go through committee they see a variety of changes, so assuming the pot bills pass and the governor signs them, the final versions will likely look different than what we see now. Still, HB 4014 and SB 1511 in particular contain some very important provisions, so lets hope the legislature gets it done right.