By Larry Coonrod
NEWPORT—Concerns about out of state growers moving into Oregon, keeping pot out of children’s hands and law enforcement dominated a public meeting in Newport about the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana this week.
Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 91 legalizing the growing, selling and use of recreational marijuana last November. The measure charges OLCC with implementing the rules and collecting marijuana taxes. The agency launched a series of 11 meetings around the state to solicit public feedback implementing Measure 91 rules.
More than 3,000 people have attended the sessions. About 200 people turned up for the Newport session held at the Hallmark Inn this week.
“We want to listen to you on the rule making, because we haven’t made any rules yet,” said OLCC Commissioner Marvin Revoal.
Attendees placed red dot stickers on lists of questions and issues that were of greatest concern.
Whether to limit the size of marijuana grow operations, prohibiting products from appealing to children and educating law enforcement were the top three concerns.
Seed to Sale Tracking
Oregon OLCC commissioners have visited Colorado to learn lessons from that state’s legalization of marijuana. While the rules may take some fleshing out, one thing is certain at this point; the state intends vigorous tracking of recreational marijuana from seed to sale.
To enter Oregon’s legalized marijuana trade at least one of four licenses is required:
“We’ve asked the state to take a look at issuing a fifth license,” Revoal said. “That license is for the labs that are out there that are testing because as it stands now there are a lot of labs out there with no regulation on them whatsoever. We don’t know what they are doing or how they are doing it.”
One person may hold multiple licenses. Measure 91 calls for recreational marijuana growers to pay an excise tax of $35 per ounce of flowers, $10 per ounce of leaves and $5 per immature plant at the time of sale.
Distribution of the excise tax is as follows:
- 40 percent to Common School Fund
- 20 percent to mental health, alcohol and drug services.
- 15 percent to Oregon State Police to enforce Measure 91.
- 10 percent to county law enforcement.
- 10 percent to cities for law enforcement.
- 5 percent to Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention.
Oregon Napa Valley of Pot
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission expects to generate $1.2 billion in revenue during the next biennium through alcohol and tobacco taxes. That money funds education, drug programs and law enforcement. Lawmakers are eyeing marijuana sales as another lucrative revenue stream.
“This is a business ladies and gentlemen. So, they’ve asked me to help create our own Napa Valley, and that’s how I look at it. And we’re going to make sure we have quality products and safe products so the market doesn’t crash on us,” Revoal said.
Cities and Counties can Prohibit Marijuana Sale
Oregon already allows cities and counties to prohibit alcohol sales by a vote of citizens. Revoal said the same would hold true for recreational marijuana.
No Mixed Medical and Recreational Marijuana Sales
Revoal said the state would not allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell the drug for recreational consumption. Medical marijuana does not have a seed to sale tracking requirement. The Oregon Health Authority, not OLCC regulates medical marijuana.
Squeezing Out the Little Guy
Many attending this week’s meeting are hoping to get in on the ground floor of growing and selling marijuana. Most expressed concerns about large out of state companies moving in on the market. There was near unanimous consent on enforcing a three-year residency requirement.
Limited Retail Sites
Oregon law prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of each other. If the state implements the same rules for recreational sales, it could limit retail sales opportunities, especially in smaller coastal communities, several people said.
Legal to Possess but Not Buy on July 1
Measure 91 legalized the possession of up to four plants and 8 ounces of marijuana on July 1, 2015. However, OLCC does not plan on accepting grower license applications until January 2016, and will not issue retail sales permits until late summer or fall next year. That will put many consumers in the Catch-22 position of having to illegally purchase marijuana to legally use it. The irony is not lost on Revoal, who says those answers will need to come from the state legislature.
“We want to help, but we need clarification as it relates to July 1 when people can have marijuana, but where are they going to get it from? We don’t know.”
Update to information on Oregon’s recreational marijuana program is available www.marijuana.oregon.gov
Contact Reporter Larry Coonrod by emailing [email protected]