Oregon is a great state for cannabis entrepreneurs and investors alike. Oregon’s cannabis programs are largely built out with welcoming parameters, although the treacle of administrative rules continues, mostly in response to legislative action from earlier this year. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with all of the changes, even for our contacts in the administrative agencies themselves.
Generally speaking, when a bill becomes law, an agency is tasked with making rules and administering the law. Agencies cannot make rules that contradict legislative actions, but they are often required to interpret a law through rulemaking, and they are allowed to fill in gaps where the legislature has been silent. In many cases, an agency will issue temporary rules to cover a bridge period, and then adopt those rules as permanent (possibly with changes) at a later date. Sometimes, rulemaking affords ample opportunity for public comment and involvement, and other times the process is esoteric.
In Oregon, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) on the recreational side, and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) on the medical side are the two main agencies regulating cannabis. Both agencies have been very busy and both have done a good job keeping the public involved during the recent many rounds of rulemaking. Below is an update on the status of rulemaking at each agency.
The rules for medical marijuana patients, growers, processors and dispensaries are permanent, and have been since March. There will be some slight housekeeping changes to these rules due to HB 4014, SB 1511 and SB 1598, which will bypass temporary status and should take effect as permanent rules soon.
The rules for limited marijuana retail sales by medical dispensaries to recreational customers are temporary, having taken effect on June 2 (we wrote about them about here). The OHA recently announced that it has begun the process of making these rules permanent.
The rules for labeling, concentration limits and testing (which we wrote about here) are temporary, and expire on June 28. The new proposed rules for these topics should take effect at that time, so a smart approach is to start complying with those.
The rules for packaging and waiver of replacement card fees are temporary. The packaging rules expire September 30, 2016 and the wavier of replacement card fees expire July 1, 2016. Why these rules are grouped together is anyone’s guess. Note that both OHA and OLCC program participants will be required to go through the OLCC’s label pre-approval process. The agency will begin holding packaging and labeling workshops next month, and should begin accepting applications August 1. For now, you can get feedback (but not official approval) on packaging and labeling for your products by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like the OHA, the OLCC also has issued proposed amendments to implement 2016 legislation. The proposed amendments on license application rules are here; the proposed amendments on expanded access are here; and the proposed amendments on inventory transfer are here.
The current status of rulemaking is enough to make anybody’s head spin, and it is no wonder that our Oregon attorneys field compliance questions on these programs daily. Fortunately, Oregon’s statutory structure is sound and the state has adopted either proposed or permanent rules to cover all the bases. And lest you become too discouraged, note that making hundreds of pages of rules seems to be a national pastime, but we all find ways to figure these things out.
We will continue to update on individual pieces of rulemaking as the programs settle. Stay tuned.