UPDATE: The Oregon Health Authority updated its rule to allow extractors to apply for a license and start legally processing on April 1st. Licensed dispensaries will then be able to see extracts produced by these provisionally-licensed processors.
Following the passage of the Oregon Measure 91 legalization initiative, most cannabis law reformers pleaded with the Oregon Legislature to keep the Oregon medical marijuana program the same, at least for a couple of years, while the state implemented the recreational system. Unfortunately, despite the pleas from advocates and the fact that Measure 91’s text multiple times that it wasn’t meant to impact Measure 91, state legislators moved forward with changes. Some changes were good, some were bad and some have had unintended consequences.
Two recent changes have put Jackson County medical marijuana growers, cannabis extracts processors, and the patients that depend upon them, in a real bind. (UPDATE: Since the Oregon Health Authority updated its rule to allow extractors to being processing on April 1st, now we just need Jackson County to adapt its policy.) These changes, based upon interpretation of recent legislative provisions, are still being worked out as allied legislators and advocates are lobbying government officials to find policies that will work effectively for all involved. Throw in the fact that 100 cities and counties have banned marijuana businesses, it is clear that we have a bunch of work left to do.
The first alarming unintended consequence was the Oregon Legislature giving marijuana agricultural farm use protections. This change in the law was intended to “grandfather in” existing medical marijuana growers and protect them from new zoning laws. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to legislators, Jackson County prohibits farm use crops from rural residential zones, even though plenty of people have been growing corn, tomatoes and many other crops without incident.
Of course, medical marijuana tends to raise a few more eyebrows from neighbors than tomatoes and a complaint can bring hefty fines. Some growers will be able to secure nonconforming land use permits for about $1,500 to protect their medical marijuana farm, but this could prove too costly for some, while others may not be approved. Legislators have made it clear that they meant to protect medical marijuana growers, not zone them out, but Jackson County Commissioners may end up reluctant to make the necessary land-use changes to protect medical marijuana gardens, even though other counties don’t have any problem allowing farm use crops in rural residential areas. If Jackson County Commissioners don’t ultimately allow medical marijuana gardens, then a legislative fix will be necessary next session.
The other current uproar in the cannabis community is the ban on the unlicensed production of cannabis extracts and the sale of any extracts that may already be on the shelves at dispensaries. Mainly due to the prevalence of butane hash oil explosions, new laws were passed that required state processing licenses to produce extracts. These new laws were even supported by many in the industry, but no one thought that the state would ban unlicensed extracts before the state licensing procedure was implemented. Needless to say, the ban on extracts has had a terrible impact upon many patients and industry participants.
We here at Marijuana Politics are glad to help organize the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference as we love bringing the cannabis community together to get the latest information and to encourage good activism. A full lineup and schedule will be out soon, but it will certainly include activists, industry participants and lawyers that will shine a light on the current situation as well as help us all organize to move the Oregon cannabis industry forward in a way that works for everyone.
Change has been a relative constant for Oregon’s marijuana laws, and we know that the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) and Oregon Legislature will continue to make changes to our marijuana laws, for better and for worse. We have made many great strides and we will continue to move forward, but we need to remain focused to make sure that patients and small businesses are able to flourish in both our medical and recreational systems.