On Thursday, March 12th, I attended the last of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s Recreational Marijuana “Listening” sessions, the conclusion of an Oregon-wide tour to listen to public comments, suggestions and concerns about the upcoming implementation of Measure 91, Oregon’s legalization of recreational marijuana. About 200 people attended, including marijuana growers, processors, product producers, retailers, and users, and including many people affiliated with the already-in-place Oregon medical marijuana program.
OLCC Commissioner Chair Rob Partridge presided, with Commissioners Pamela Weatherspoon, Marvin D. Révoal, and Michael E. Harper also in attendance.
Commissioners Partridge and Harper admitted that they did not support Measure 91 legalization, but pledged to fairly and forthrightly execute the will of the people in implimenting the new law.
The Commissioners explained the general provisions of Measure 91, and generally the steps that have been taken to date to implement the measure.
Also discussed was the Justice Department “Cole Memo,” wherein the federal government issued guidelines to federal prosecutors about de-prioritizing certain marijuana prosecutions in states where marijuana legalization was in place or underway.
A primary focus of the discussion was what will likely be Oregon’s effort to comply with the Cole Memo’s directive for a “robust” system that keeps marijuana out of the hands of minors and criminals, and keeps legal cannabis money out of criminal enterprises (these being, very generally, the federal government’s Cole Memo goals and priorities).
To do this, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (the State organization tasked to oversee the legalization of recreational marijuana) is working toward a “seed to sale” product tracking system to prevent renegade cannabis product from exiting the legal regime.
Eventually the OLCC members posed a series of questions to the audience, who were asked to weigh in with a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” vote on various issues. Following each audience vote the Commissioners would hear a few additional comments by audience members.
One obvious point of contention is the (presently unknown) interplay between the existing legal medical marijuana industry and the now-forming legal recreational marijuana system. The medical system is not currently governed by a seed to sale system, and the OLCC has no authority to mandate that the medical system adopt one. However, current growers, processors, product makers, and retailers of medical marijuana would have to implement a seed to sale system if they wish to participate in the upcoming recreational cannabis industry. And therefore the suppliers to the medical marijuana industry would – if they wish to participate in the recreational industry – have to undertake the additional costs and efforts to comply with the more stringent recreational guidelines — perhaps increasing the cost of medical marijuana to end users.
One fact was obvious throughout – there are still a ton of “unknowns” as Measure 91 implementation moves forward, and legal marijuana business people – in both the medical system and the upcoming recreational industry – need to stay nimble and alert to insure they are aware of upcoming changes and details, and to insure that their businesses – or business plans – remain viable alongside future developments.
As an attorney helping businesses startup and “do business,” the challenges to new cannabis entrepreneurs are many, and I look forward to assisting clients entering into the newly legal recreational marijuana economy.