Oregon Marijuana: The Early Word on 2017

imagesCroptober has come again to Oregon, and Halloween plants are coming into flower. The October 1 compliance deadlines for packaging and labeling have passed, and some new, temporary rules on marijuana testing, labeling and marketing to minors were added to the pile. The next big Oregon program deadline will be January 1, when the “early start” program expires, and medical marijuana dispensaries will no longer be able to sell pot to recreational customers. Instead, those sales will be made exclusively via licensed retailers, and the sales tax will drop to a mere 17% to 20%. Good times indeed.

The Oregon legislature meets again in February, and cannabis will again be on the agenda. The early word has two items up for consideration: (1) cannabis cafés; and (2) special event (temporary) licenses. We have written about the cannabis cafés issue before: in short, the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act currently precludes smoking in public work places. That is true even when the express purpose of the venue is for smoking pot, the venue is private, and all staff are volunteers. As to special event licenses, many people will remember last fall when pot events seemed common. Since then, cities like Portland have put the kibosh on marijuana-related events, and there is no state licensing available for temporary events, as with alcohol.

Cannabis cafés and special event licenses are popular issues, but industry players should expect more than these few program tweaks. For example, legislators are openly asking for feedback on structural program questions, like whether and how the state might merge its recreational and medical marijuana programs. It remains to be seen if that actually happens in 2017, but an important takeaway here is that it is still open season for cannabis ideas in Oregon. Accordingly, we expect to see a few interesting proposals between now and the end of the year.

That Oregon continues to examine its cannabis programs is a good sign: states with senior programs, like Washington and Colorado, continue to adopt rule changes in response to public concern and evolving market factors. Some of these changes are made by administrative agencies acting within the scope of their program authority; other changes are structural in nature, enacted by the legislatures to address core concerns. At the end of the day, everyone adapts.

If you have an idea for something that needs a hard look in the Oregon marijuana programs, we would love to hear from you. More importantly, so would your legislators. The Joint Interim Committee on Marijuana Legalization is still intact, and we have found that its members have sincere interest in hearing what people feel is working in Oregon cannabis, and what is causing heartburn. Croptober will fly by and soon it will be 2017, another year for proving out cannabis ideas in Oregon. Some of them will be big ones.