Oregon Undertakes Marijuana Rulemaking

Given that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) must start accepting applications for state-sanctioned marijuana growers, manufacturers, and retailers no later than January 2016, it is no wonder that the agency has started moving forward with Measure 91 rule-making. Having gone through this experience with our clientele in multiple states, we know that this sort of rule-making effort is no picnic. The OLCC has to listen to stakeholders, draft and re-draft rules based on that input and spend long hours ensuring that its recreational marijuana program works for the state and its consumers and marijuana businesses. This, though, is much easier said than done.

Tomorrow, the OLCC will be putting on a couple of “listening sessions” in Pendleton and Baker City. These sessions are meant to solicit public input regarding what stakeholders want to see in the upcoming rules. Some of you may remember the Washington State Liquor Control Board embarking on such meetings and, as you might imagine, some of the attendees at these meetings had mixed things to say about Initiative 502, most of which had nothing to do with the Board’s crafting of the initial I-502 rules. So, if you go to one of these meetings, get ready to sit through some lengthy soapbox commentary before you can get your two cents in about the actual rules you want to see in place.

If you are not game to attend the OLCC’s premier listening sessions, fear not. You can still keep up to date on what the OLCC is doing (including receiving drafts of the rules) by signing up for the OLCC’s email list-serve. We know the drill here and we recommend that all stakeholders sign up for this list-serve as it will no doubt be the best way for you to stay up to date on what is happening in Salem on marijuana. And if you want to make your voice heard without even having to leave your house, you can just shoot an email to marijuana@oregon.gov.

So, how does rule-making in Oregon even work? It is important for marijuana stakeholders to know the process because there are some fairly intense and unchangeable deadlines involved.

First, a “rule” is “any agency directive, standard, regulation or statement of general applicability that implements, interprets or prescribes law or policy, or describes the procedure or practice requirements of any agency.” Agencies may adopt, amend, or repeal rules, permanently or temporarily (up to 180 days), using the procedures outlined in the Oregon Attorney General’s Administrative Law Manual. There are also some well-established public notice deadlines the OLCC must meet before any rules are adopted, which includes giving the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules before adoption. Rules (as opposed to statutes) are ever-changing, so if you are a marijuana stakeholder you should remain vigilant regarding proposed rule adoptions and changes. You also should keep your eye on the Oregon State legislature which, despite not going into session until February, has already dropped 16 bills that deal with marijuana issues, including medical marijuana and Measure 91 regulations and its tax structure. These bills could significantly impact or even delay the OLCC’s rule-making process.

Though we are thrilled to see the OLCC pick up the pen to begin putting together the guts of Measure 91, this is also the time when anxieties mount because of the rapid pace with which regulations and, ultimately, the fate of marijuana businesses begin to take form and to change.

We urge our readers to participate and help shape Oregon’s rules.