The sausage making that goes on at legislatures is often not for the faint of heart. What can be introduced as one bill can be bait and switched on folks with very little time to understand the true implications of the bill. Unfortunately, House Bill 2265 is one such bill this 2021 legislative session and this bait and switch will be harmful to many current medical cannabis patients who most probably have no idea that their medicinal cannabis gardens will be impacted and that they may lose access to their medicine altogether. House Bill 2265, introduced by Representative John Lively, used to merely state that:
“The Oregon Liquor Control Commission shall study cannabis in this state.
The commission shall report its findings and recommendations to an interim committee of
the Legislative Assembly related to economic development no later than December 31, 2021.”
Now, thanks to an amendment, House Bill 2265 does much more than just study cannabis, it now moves enforcement of registering medical cannabis gardens from the Oregon Health Authority to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Here’s the description of the amendment that actually passed the General Government Committee by the Legislative Policy and Research Office:
“Replaces the measure. Directs OLCC to establish by rule a medical marijuana grow site registration process.
Defines medical marijuana grow site as a location where marijuana is produced for registry identification
cardholders, but not including marijuana grow sites registered by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Specifies
criteria for OLCC registration and for the transfer of marijuana; sets grow site production limits; establishes civil
penalties for violations; and establishes OLCC registration deadlines. Allows OLCC to adopt by reference applicable
OHA rules. Limits a person designated to produce marijuana by a registry identification cardholder under an OHA
grow site registration to grow for no more than two cardholders. Allows the OHA to renew marijuana grow site
registrations issued by the authority until June 1, 2022, clarifying that beginning September 1, 2021, the authority
may not issue registration to a grow site that produces marijuana for more than two registry identification
cardholders. Requires the OLCC to receive applications for grow site registrations no later than June 1, 2022 for
sites previously registered under OHA or producing marijuana for three or more registry identification
cardholders. Declares emergency, effective on passage.”
Just a few problems with the bill. First, just the concept of moving Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) regulation from the OHA to the OLCC goes against what the voters intended when passing Measure 91 as the legalization law clearly stated that the OMMP should not be infringed upon by ending prohibition for all adults. The next concern is moving private medical information from the OHA to the OLCC. I’ve had my issues with OHA’s regulation of the OMMP over the years, but at least they are experienced with protecting private medical information. I’ve praised and criticized the OLCC when deserved, but the agency doesn’t have the same experience and expertise protecting private medical information as OHA. Additionally, the HB 2265 allows the OLCC to revoke registration from OMMP applicants who are “insolvent or incompetent or physically unable to carry on the management of the
medical marijuana grow site” and “in the habit of using alcoholic liquor, habit-forming drugs, marijuana or controlled
substances to excess”. These powers to strip licensure may be relevant to the billion-dollar adult-use market, but not for small medical cannabis gardens. Finally, the OLCC has a lot on its plate and it is going to cost money and resources to move OMMP regulation from one government body to another. This bill is simply not needed.
There are more issues with the bill and I urge folks to stay up-to-date with Compassionate Oregon, the state’s leading medical cannabis advocates that are doing the heavy lifting to defeat House Bill 2265 and protect and improve the OMMP every legislative session. There are only about 20,000 OMMP patients remaining and the OLCC-regulated cannabis industry is bringing in more money and generating more revenue than ever expected, there’s no reason to add more hurdles for patients battling severe and debilitating medical conditions and their providers. Oregonians, please contact your state legislators and the House Ways and Means Committee to let them know that they should vote NO on House Bill 2265. Also, contact Governor Kate Brown, and let her know that you do NOT support this bill as well.
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Featured photo credit: Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance