A Day in Salem
By: Justin Reed
“Well begun is half done.”
– Cited by Aristotle as an ancient proverb in his treatise, Politics
In 2014, Oregonians voted to pass Measure 91 and legalize the recreational use of cannabis, and everything was great. The end.
After 91 passed the the real work started of transitioning a robust black market out of the shadows. In late 2015, consumers were allowed to purchase limited amounts of cannabis from medical dispensaries. Then 2016 saw recreational dispensaries open as well making a variety of new products (vapes, edibles, capsules, etc.) available to consumers 21 and over. Packaging rules have been overhauled to better align with FDA guidelines, and rules have been established for mixing hemp and cannabis products.
All of these changes started out as bills at the Oregon legislature. Our Finance Director, Brian Johansing, and I had the opportunity last month to visit the state Capitol as a part of the Oregon Cannabis Association Lobby Day. After a quick tour and preparatory meeting, we were off to meet with our representatives and their staff to talk about the following bills:
- This bill would permit social consumption sites for cannabis such as lounges and temporary events. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) would regulate both lounges and temporary event functions similar to alcohol.
- We are very excited to see steps towards social consumption. Not only is this a stigma issue for us to be treated more like alcohol, but a socio-economic one. Low income individuals disproportionately live in apartments that don’t have to allow consumption.
- Directs the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) to expunge the criminal charges on the record that would no longer be considered a crime under current law.
- -This is a no-brainer for us: legalization was as much about criminal records as it was about access.
- Allows the Governor to enter into an agreement with other states that have legalized cannabis to coordinate enforcement of cannabis businesses conducting business across those states.
- We support this bill as a great first step towards federal legalization.
- This legislation permits counties to expand venues they can tax licensed cannabis producers to ‘production sites’. The proposed fees are $1 per square foot of licensed recreational canopy and $50 per plant in medical grows.
- We strongly oppose this bill. While we understand the idea of redirecting funds from Portland (where the majority of cannabis products are purchased) to southern Oregon (where the majority of cannabis is grown), we do not believe adding a tax (that is reflected in no other industries) to already beleaguered producers is the answer.
My biggest takeaway from the trip was how hard our politicians are working to understand these issues, and how important it is for us to educate and advocate on the issues we care about.