The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has overseen the nascent Oregon cannabis industry since Measure 91 went into effect in 2015. Since then, the OLCC has been the chief regulator over an industry that went from the underground into a licensed and regulated billion dollar business sector. With federal legalization getting closer and closer, the future looks bright Oregon’s cannabis industry to bring in even more revenue, but some sensible reforms are needed at both the state and national levels to fully unleash the economic benefits of cannabis, starting with helping craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf thrive.
Adding “cannabis” to the OLCC’s name, may not seem like much, but it’s an important symbolic step in mainstreaming cannabis and implementing common sense regulations. That said, it’s important that the OLCC not regulate Oregon Medical Marijuana Program as the needs of OMMP patients and providers are distinct from those of consumers and for-profit businesses.
With Oregon retailers on a pace to sell $1 billion worth of recreational cannabis in the 2020-21 fiscal year, Gov. Kate Brown is asking lawmakers to change the name of the venerable Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which has worn the same label since its formation in 1933, after Prohibition ended.
But following voter approval in 2014 of recreational cannabis, the OLCC took on a vast new responsibility, regulating legal weed. (To put the two industries into perspective, the OLCC expects to sell about $777 million worth of distilled spirits in the next fiscal year. That’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to cannabis, because it doesn’t include the retail markup on booze, but it shows that cannabis has quickly become a significant industry for the state to regulate.)
Unlike liquor, where established multinational and domestic distillers produce versions of the same booze Oregonians have drunk for decades, cannabis is a rapidly emerging and evolving industry. The state plays a much different role with cannabis: It is not a seller. Instead, the Oregon Department of Revenue collects a tax of 17% at the retail level, while the OLCC provides regulation. It is involved in helping the industry maximize safety without stifling growth and innovation.
With cannabis moving on par with alcohol, in the great state of Oregon and slowly but surely across the USA, the OLCC, legislators, and policymakers need to stop being afraid of federal intervention and start maximizing the industry, while protecting the needs of patients and growers. Oregon needs to move forward with expanding delivery services, allowing cannabis cafes (after the COVID pandemic ends), ending restrictions designed to curb the cannabis supply, and promote the state as a cannabis tourist destination, the same way that our local wineries, microbreweries, and distilleries are celebrated. Changing the name of the OLCC is a start, let’s continue, step by step, to treat cannabis as it should be, as a relatively safe substance. Let’s fully put Reefer Madness behind us and start using some cannabis common sense (hat tip to activist Paul Stanford and his crew) across the board.