Oregon Recreational MarijuanaThe latest landmark day in Oregon marijuana has arrived. On January 4, beginning at 8:30 a.m., entrepreneurs can apply to produce, process, wholesale and retail recreational marijuana in the state of Oregon. The application window will also open to testing labs and research initiatives at this time. All Oregon recreational marijuana licensing applications must be submitted online with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). Forms and instructions are here.

When the OLCC finalized its temporary program rules in November, most potential applicants believed they would have ample time to prepare their applications ahead of the January 4 date. However, a combination of factors has conspired to slow preparation for some. In many jurisdictions, for example, cities and counties are still mired in revisions to their local zoning code, or are unprepared to process the required Land Use Compatibility Statements. Some applicants have been bogged down in local permitting, while others are finding that assembling required documents like security plans and business operation plans is more time consuming than anticipated.

The good news is that, contrary to swirling rumors, the application period is not a finite window. Though many of our clients are applying today, others will be applying in the weeks and months (and hopefully years) ahead.

Of course, there are compelling reasons for some applicants to get in early: a retail applicant may want to ensure that it does not fall victim to another retailer located within a physical radius proscribed by local zoning code; or a producer applicant may want to ensure it has ample time to begin the growing cycle for sales next fall. Other applicants may simply be sitting on unproductive assets, which should be put to use. Regarding timing, the OLCC anticipates issuing the first producer and processor licenses in the second quarter of 2016, with retail licenses issuing in the third quarter.

As we have written previously, the application fee to OLCC is only $250, with the balance of the license fee payable after an applicant is approved and passes inspection. Once an application is submitted, OLCC will assign an inspector to that application, who will work with the potential licensee’s designated point of contact throughout the application process. Though it is encouraging that OLCC likely will not summarily deny an application that contains flaws, we strongly advise all applicants to avoid submitting an incomplete, or “placeholder,” document. Instead, a complete, polished submission offers the greatest likelihood of success. All applicants should note that everything submitted to OLCC becomes a discoverable part of the public record (with limited redactions).

Licensee requirements (go here, here, here, and here for our writings on Oregon cannabis licensing) could change as soon as February when the Oregon legislative session commences. The most often discussed possible change is eradication of the 51% Oregon ownership requirement currently required of all licensees. Whatever happens, we expect Oregon’s cannabis program to undergo significant changes in the coming months and years, and anyone participating in this industry will need to remain flexible. Still, the mere fact that entrepreneurs can now apply to participate in Oregon’s newest industry is an exciting step.