State law update

As it stands, beginning on July 1 in Oregon, it will be legal:

• for adults 21 and over to possess and use recreational marijuana

• for recreational marijuana to be used at home or on private property

• to possess up to 8 oz. of usable marijuana in the home

• to possess up to 1 oz. of usable marijuana outside the home

• to grow up to 4 plants per residence, out of public view

• to share or give away recreational marijuana

• to make edible products at home or receive them at home, and use privately

It will NOT be legal:

• to take marijuana in or out of the state

• to drive under the influence of marijuana

• to buy or sell marijuana

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) is the state agency that will regulate the growing and selling of commercial marijuana.  The rules and laws the OLCC will follow are now being made in the Oregon state legislature.

The OLCC does not regulate the home growing or possession aspects of Measure 91 that will go into effect July 1.  It will, however, regulate the business aspects (growers, wholesalers, processors and retail outlets) and will begin accepting applications for these businesses on January 4, 2016

The ability to buy marijuana at a retail outlet is not expected to start until the fall of 2016.

On June 15, the House-Senate marijuana committee unanimously approved HB3400, a landmark bill that regulates commercial marijuana in Oregon.  One of the most fundamental differences between the bill and the intentions of Measure 91, in which voters approved the use of recreational marijuana in the state, is that it allows local governments – rather than a popular vote – to ban retail sales in the 15 (Eastern Oregon) counties where voters opposed Measure 91.

This makes Measure 91 a statewide measure that will not actually have a statewide effect.

Salem Weekly spoke to Peter Gendron, Oregon cannabis grower and legislative advisor, about the committee’s work this session, and about HB3400.

SW: Peter, what’s important for our readers to know about now that we’re nearly at the end of the session?

Gendron: It’s important to remember that there are still a lot of moving pieces.  Some bills will still change over the course of the next couple weeks, and then nothing is set in stone until the governor signs it.  And even then, we’re going to be changing things again in the 2016 legislature

SW:  What are your thoughts on the county opt-out allowance?

Gendron:  Taking a statewide law, and then saying, ‘oh, this is not really statewide; we’re going to go county by county’ – that’s not much of a state law.  People in our Senate rationalized it by saying that after the prohibition of alcohol ended in 1933, there were still dry counties.  But that’s a pretty weak rationalization, and you’re not comparing apples and apples there, in my opinion.

I was at a Grants Pass city council meeting where they want to ban all outdoor and greenhouse cultivation and processing, possession, and they want to make it so that if you can smell cannabis at your property line, you would receive a fine.

Smell comes from terpenes and the cannabis plant has every terpene known to man.  Banning the smell is basically absurd.  Think of industries that smell, I mean [an Oregon cabinetmaker] has a tremendous smell… but there’s no ordinance that says they have to confine their smell.

We have scrubbers and other equipment to deal with what little odor there is, so that’s not really the issue.  It’s not about the smell.  And it’s not ‘about the children.’  It’s the prohibitionist’s mentality.

My friend, attorney Leland Berger calls it “canna-bigotry,” a great term although not really politically correct.  It means a lack of understanding rooted in 78 years of lies we have been told.  It’s gone beyond a misunderstanding; this lie is now presumed to be true.  And that’s what people are really supporting when they support something like the smell objection.

SW: Do you have hope that uninformed thinking may be reversed?

Gendron: I expect to see this continue for a period of time.  In my work I often have to sit down in offices with people that are openly opposed, on the record – totally opposed to this plant.  And one thing that I’ve seen – and these conversations are typically not easy – I have seen that when you educate people about the plant, when you educate them about the people that use it, that education is a sufficient cure for the ignorance.

The problem is that it takes time and a willing, receptive mind in order for somebody to be able to perceive essentially that everything they thought they knew about this plant was wrong.

SW: How will bans in some counties impact the industry?

Gendron: Here’s the thing.  We live in a capitalist Society, a society based around business.  You can talk about Democrat or Republic or wax poetic about the intent of our forefathers, but the fact of the matter is this is a free market economy.

The success or failure of any business is based on the public’s desire for that business to exist.  I wouldn’t go and set up my new bikini business in Alaska and I’m not going to start manufacturing parkas in South Texas, because they’re not going to sell there.

So I believe that the concern about local jurisdictions being able to ban is unfounded and here is why: if you live in a county where 2/3 of the people voted for cannabis businesses, then you’re going to have a good consumer base and those businesses will thrive.

But if you live in a county where 2/3 of the people voted against cannabis businesses, then those businesses aren’t going to have any clients anyway.  They wont’ be able to succeed because they won’t have customers.  That’s how a free market regulates itself.

SW: Final thoughts?

Gendron: My only disappointment in this process is the legislature’s focus on modifying the medical program, which the federal government has seen fit to leave unmolested for the last 15 years, when the focus really should have been on implementing recreational.

Some changes are going to be made to ‘medical’ in a year or two anyway, so I think they lost focus on being concerned about the compliance, and that was a distraction from the implementation of Measure 91.  That part means that the citizens of Oregon don’t get exactly what they voted for.  And that’s disappointing for me.