Since the passing of Measure 91 in Oregon, a number of other important measures have been passed that detail the way that the state’s path to recreational marijuana will unfold. One of the most comprehensive of these measures is HB 3400 which passed during a flurry of activity in the legislative session that adjourned on July 6, 2015.
HB 3400 outlines many of the restrictions that pertain to the cannabis market from the point of view of legal conditions before licensing structures from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission have been put into place. A major point of dispute in the OLCC pertained to what is now known as the “local option,” allowing cities and counties to ban both recreational and medical marijuana sales in their region. Other sections of the bill cover a vast array of concerns such as advertising, sentencing, residency requirements and many other key factors.
The Local Option
As per sections 19-22 of HB 3400, cities and counties in Oregon may choose to ban sales of marijuana if the constituents originally voted by at least 55 percent against Measure 91. The bill also allows them to outline which types of licenses they choose to put a moratorium on. This includes those for retail marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers as well as medical marijuana processing sites and dispensaries. This will chiefly affect areas east of the Cascades. As we approach the end of August, a number of the 15 “affected counties” have already submitted the opt out form provided by the OLCC.
Sam Chapman, founding member of New Economy Consulting and lobbyist for drug policy reform, provided predictive insight at the Creative Cannabis Conference this past July: “Personal laws in those [affected] counties did not change, so I don’t really consider them dry counties … . Because personal grow and consumption is still going to be allowed, and gifting of marijuana for no financial gain is also legal in all of those counties, eventually the counties are going to realize that it’s been in their backyard this entire time, what had they been worried about. How long it is going to take for them to come around? We can’t be sure.”
The local option is seen by many as a compromise on the path towards legalization. These new regulations resulting from the growing pains of legalizing recreational marijuana sales are impacting the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program as well.
A particularly celebratory attribute of the measure is the impact it will have on the policing of marijuana-related crimes. HB 3400 reduces a number of penalties for marijuana crimes while keeping them in parallel to similar sentences for alcohol-related offenses. It ends most marijuana-related felonies in the state.
For example, unlawful delivery and possession, including minor possession of more than 8 ounces, has been reduced from a Class C felony to a Class A misdemeanor. Manufacturing and delivery to a minor has been reduced from a Class B felony to a Class C felony. As many of the remaining felonies will be no higher than Class C, offenses will be eligible for expungement from one’s record after three years.
The bill will also allow previously convicted felons to apply to have their offenses expunged from their record if their crime is now legal under new measures that allow for the possession of up to 8 ounces of cannabis at a private residence or an ounce in public. These changes should improve quality of life for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of nonviolent marijuana offenders throughout the state.
The bill establishes product safety regulations that will protect consumers from mold and other contaminants. Advertising for marijuana products is not allowed to appeal to minors or promote excessive use. The bill mandates a two-year residency requirement for business owners, but does not specify such a requirement for investors. It grants labor protections for marijuana handlers who are now granted the right to organize for collective bargaining. It also allows for a single applicant to apply for all four available licenses provided by the OLCC, which will allow for “seed to sale” enterprises.
Overall, the bill is aimed at making the legal market safer for consumers and workers alike. There are certainly favorable changes that have been made on combatting the legal “war on cannabis.” However, there is a lot left unanswered by this measure. In a constantly changing legal landscape, it will be important for newcomers to the industry to ensure that they educate themselves on both state and local laws before entering. It will be important for all participants in the industry to make sure that they stay up-to-date on the potential impacts these evolving regulations will have on their businesses and investments.