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    2017 Cannabis Law Update

    Over the last three years many of us have worked together to develop the legal framework for Oregon’s cannabis and industrial hemp sector.  We have focused on four goals: implement voters’ decision to legalize marijuana, eliminate the illegal market and promote public safety, protect patients and other consumers, and enable legal businesses to operate.  As the Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation completes what is likely our final session as a committee, I created this summary of the legislation we have crafted together. 

    The teamwork among the many people who have worked on this legislation shows the cooperative spirit of Oregonians across the state and across the political spectrum.  We will need to adjust Oregon’s cannabis laws moving forward, to be sure, but the committee’s work provides a strong starting place for an important emerging sector.   


    The Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation and friends

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    Big Breakthrough

    Yesterday we passed a resolution at the National Conference of State Legislatures urging Congress to solve the cannabis banking problem and allow states to decide for themselves how to regulate cannabis. It was an important breakthrough.

    We did it with bipartisan teamwork from Oregon legislators Sen. Ted Ferrioli, Sen. Ginny Burdick, Rep. Jennifer Williamson, and former Senator Bruce Starr, as well as from Republican and Democratic legislators from around the country. At one point a Republican Senator from Utah—which allows neither medical nor adult-use cannabis—offered a compromise amendment that allowed the resolution move forward.

    We need more bipartisan teamwork like this to solve tough problems in our country. It’s great that work on the cannabis issue, both in Oregon and at our national summit, is providing a model for how we can move forward together.   

    There is much left to do – the federal government’s decision not to de-schedule is one example. I stand ready to work with you, and to work across the aisle, to keep making progress.


    Speaking to the National Conference of State Legislatures about the importance of our resolution.

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    Cannabis Law Update

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    Legislating Legal Cannabis

    In a strong bipartisan vote yesterday, the House passed a bill that right-sizes penalties for marijuana offenses, makes it easier for medical patients to access medicine, and helps small businesses sell to the legal adult-use market. House Bill 4014 is the first of three bills drafted this session to further fine-tune the regulatory framework developed in 2015 to establish Oregon’s recreational cannabis market. Here is a summary of some of the key provisions in the bill:

    1. Youth Cannabis-use Prevention Program: Creates a pilot program to prevent youth from using cannabis.

    2. Residency Requirements: Brings legal cannabis businesses in line with other legal businesses by removing restrictions on the residency of individuals that may own or invest in legal cannabis businesses in Oregon. This will help enable businesses to meet business needs despite lack of access to banking services.

    3. Small Businesses: Encourages the OLCC to help small producers have a meaningful role in the OLCC-regulated sector by adopting licensure requirements that better fit the needs of small farms.

    4. Criminal Justice Issues: Reduces some criminal penalties related to a range of marijuana offenses and directs state to treat medical cannabis use like use of prescription drugs when setting conditions for pre-trial release, diversion, parole, and probation. The bill returns penalties to pre-HB 3400 level for conduct that involves unlicensed use of highly explosive materials or significant production within 1000-feet of a school. The bill expressly prohibits smoking cannabis while driving.

    5. Veterans’ Access to Medicine: Allows veterans who have a qualifying medical condition to access medical marijuana cards at the same price as may low-income individuals, $20.

    6. Research: Supports cannabis research and R&D by ensuring researchers have pathways to access the product and seeds they need to conduct research.

    7. Tribes: Supports Governor’s authority to enter into agreements with Tribes in Oregon to align our respective activities in the legal cannabis sector.

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    A Clean Slate

    As the mother of two teenagers, I know that good people can make mistakes – particularly good young people. The key is to learn from your mistakes and move forward. If a person is convicted for a marijuana-related offense, however, moving forward can be tough. A marijuana conviction can make it harder to find a job, rent an apartment, or even get an education.

    This year I was pleased to help pass two bills in the Oregon Legislature to address this issue. HB 3400 allows people to expunge many marijuana convictions after three years. SB 844 allows a person under age 21 to expunge a marijuana conviction after one year in some instances. We also reduced the severity of some marijuana offenses in light of voters’ decision to pass Measure 91.

    I am pleased now for the chance to support Congressman Blumenauer’s Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act of 2015. This legislation will help people with minor federal convictions for marijuana clear those offenses from their records.

    The Congressman’s staff has calculated that in the last ten years, over seven million people have been arrested for marijuana possession, taking into account state, federal, and local law enforcement statistics. The Clean Slate Act will not only help some of those people, it will send a strong message that allowing a pathway for expungement of certain marijuana offenses should happen at all levels of government.

    Thank you, Congressman Blumenauer, for your leadership. Thanks also to the great work of New Approach Oregon, the Bus Project, the ACLU of Oregon, attorney Rob Bovett, Rep. Andy Olson, Senator Floyd Prozanski, Senator Ginny Burdick, and Rep. Lew Frederick on this issue.
    Round Table With Rep. Lew Frederick, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Anthony Johnson of New Approach Oregon, and Aaron Brown of the Bus Project
    11240087_10107010018688174_5871758212492068728_o Round Table conversation with Congressman Blumenauer (Photo: Rachel Loskill)

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    Session Highlights

    The 2015 legislative session just ended, and we made good progress on our priorities. Here are some of the highlights, plus links to key bills we passed:

    Strengthening Education

    We took important steps to improve Oregon’s education system by

    • Making historically large investments in early learning, our K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities (HB 5016, HB 5017, HB 5024, SB 5507)
    • Supporting career and technical training and science and math education (CTE-STEM) so students can prepare for good jobs (HB 3072, HB 5016, SB 81)
    • Helping students who learn at an accelerated pace access appropriate challenges and earn college credit (SB 418)
    • Ensuring that students can afford lunch so they can focus on learning at school (HB 2545)
    • Protecting the confidentiality of student data so companies do not buy and sell it (HB 2715, SB 187)
    • Helping school districts identify students with dyslexia so schools can ensure these students’ success (SB 612)

    Helping Workers and Businesses Thrive

    We all want Oregonians to be able to provide for their families and enjoy the dignity of having a job. This session the Legislature advanced these goals by

    • Helping low-income people access child care so they can work, and by easing the financial cliff that hurts some people when they get a job (HB 2015, HB 2171)
    • Enabling workers to take time off to care for a sick child or recover from illness (SB 454)
    • Helping Oregonians save for retirement (HB 2960)
    • Adopting targeted incentives to spur job growth in the clean energy, food production equipment, and film sectors (HB 2941 and HB 3125)
    • Clarifying tax policy so Oregon can attract and retain technology jobs (SB 611)
    • Supporting transportation investments – this is a good step, but we need a robust transportation package (HB 5030, HB 5040)
    • Creating clear rules for the cannabis sector to help create good jobs, protect safety, and appropriately regulate this $1 billion/year market (HB 3400, HB 2041, SB 460, SB 844, and SJR 12)

    Protecting our Environment

    We took steps to protect Oregon’s environment this session by

    • Requiring a phase-out of toxic chemicals from children’s products (SB 478)
    • Improving Oregon’s pesticide spray laws to better protect people and drinking water – we have more work to do here, but this is progress (HB 3549)
    • Supporting expansion of our clean energy economy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (SB 324)
    • Encouraging cleanup and re-use of brownfield properties (HB 2734)

    Helping Vulnerable People

    We are helping keep vulnerable Oregonians safe and secure by

      • Supporting creation of affordable apartments and preserving the ones we have (HB 2629, SB 5506, HB 2198)
      • Enabling survivors of sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence to obtain confidential help and protective orders (HB 3476 and HB 2628)
      • Keeping guns away from domestic violence perpetrators and other dangerous people (SB 525, SB 941)
      • Enabling women to obtain a year’s supply of birth control so they can avoid unintended pregnancy (HB 3343)

    Strengthening our Justice System

    After tragic events around the country, we worked to ensure our justice system is fair for all Oregonians by

    • Preventing unfair profiling by police of people of color (HB 2002)
    • Creating a framework for communities to require on-duty law enforcement officials to wear body cameras (HB 2571)
    • Allowing community members to record the conduct of on-duty police officers (HB 2704)
    • Reclassifying marijuana offenses and helping people expunge offenses for conduct that is no longer illegal (HB 3400, SB 844)

    Improving Government Effectiveness

    We are helping our government operate more fairly and efficiently by

    • Improving information that lawmakers and the public receive about tax credits before creating or expanding tax credits so we can use credits wisely (HB 3542).
    • Streamlining the process to access social services to improve efficiency and reduce costs (HB 2219)
    • Requiring the Legislature to hold hearings around Oregon to ensure the redistricting process is conducted in a fair and reasonable manner (HB 2974)
    • Helping Oregonians register to vote so they can help shape a strong future for our state (HB 2177)

    We accomplished a lot this legislative session, but there is more left to do. Please reach out to our office over the interim about issues that are important to you so we can work together to address them. Thanks.

    Members of the Committee to Implement Measure 91 (Rep. Peter Buckley, Rep. Carl Wilson, Rep. Andy Olsen, and Rep. Ken Helm) marking the close of our 2015 Legislative Session, with photo bomb by Rep. John Davis

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    View from the dais

    Measure 91 Committee Meeting

    My son Adam testifying about the need for prevention education for young people.

    After five months of teamwork and a few ups and downs, the Joint Committee to Implement Measure 91 has negotiated legislation to support the roll-out of Oregon’s adult-use marijuana sector, protect families and communities, and reduce activity in the gray market. You can read more about the key elements of this package here.

    I really like elements of this bill that will enable Oregonians to:

    • expunge marijuana offenses so people will not be stigmatized by conduct that’s no longer illegal,
    • educate young people that marijuana is not appropriate for them, even if it is legal for adults to use responsibly,
    • give local government tools they need to regulate legal marijuana businesses,
    • reduce activity in the unregulated market,
    • create reasonable opportunities for businesses to access start-up capital,
    • strengthen testing of marijuana products to protect people from contaminants and help them understand the potency of what they are consuming,
    • track impacts on energy and water use so we can encourage efficient use of these resources,
    • protect workers by giving them the right to organize and by providing whistleblower safeguards, and
    • provide certainty for an emerging sector so it can thrive and provide economic opportunity in our state.

    I also really like the fact that we developed this package with strong teamwork from patients, industry members, local government representatives, and others. Our committee voted the bill out unanimously, and we hope the House and Senate votes will also show strong bipartisan support.

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    Marijuana Maneuvers

    Last night we reunited the Joint Committee to Implement Measure 91 for the first time since the Big Breakup. By breakup, I mean the Senate’s decision to form its own breakaway committee to push through a bill that will allow local governments to prohibit legal medical marijuana businesses without a prior vote of the people. You can watch Sen. Burdick and I debate the issue on KATU’s Your Voice, Your Vote in the video below.

    The evening began when our Senate colleagues convened a meeting of their breakaway committee to work their medical marijuana bill, SB 964. They declined to hold a public hearing on the controversial opt-out provision and passed it to the Senate floor for a vote.

    Senate Special Committee on Implementing Measure 91

    Here are the Senators at work – plus Sen. Ferrioli, hiding.

    At 5:30 p.m., I convened our Joint Committee to Implement Measure 91 and legislative counsel Mark Mayer walked us through a draft framework to support implementation of M91.

    The framework includes elements to support:

    • Licensing for growers, processors, retailers, and providers of cannabis seeds and immature plants,
    • Certification to support marijuana research,
    • Seed-to-sale tracking for marijuana plants,
    • Compliance with state land use rules,
    • Taxation at the point of sale for marijuana products,
    • Reduction and expungement of marijuana crimes,
    • Civil enforcement of marijuana rules , and
    • Preemption against local governments prohibiting all recreational marijuana businesses without a public vote

    We’ll hold our first public hearing on these ideas Wednesday, and we welcome your input.

    A friend of mine recently observed that if you like law or if you like sausage, you probably don’t want to watch either one of them getting made. The lawmaking process for our Joint Committee has been a little grisly, for sure. That said, I think our committee members share enough common ground – a commitment to Oregon families, communities, and small businesses – that we can still do good work together to implement legal marijuana in Oregon.

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    Finding a path forward for marijuana

    Senator Burdick and I on a tour of a medical marijuana grow site

    Senator Burdick and I on a tour of a medical marijuana grow site

    Over the past several months, the Oregon Legislature’s marijuana committee has worked hard to support an orderly roll out of legal marijuana. As co-chair of the committee, my goal has been to create marijuana policy that safeguards patients’ access to medicine, protects families and communities, and creates opportunity for local people.

    Committee members have developed consensus on lots of issues, like the need for tools to help local officials regulate legal marijuana businesses and rules to clarify that growers may possess what they produce.

    Despite our common ground, we reached an impasse on whether local officials may unilaterally prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries and processing facilities in their areas.

    I advocated for letting voters decide whether their community should prohibit legal medical marijuana businesses. I worry that letting city councils and county commissions unilaterally opt out could hurt patients’ access to medicine, undermine our effort to curb the black market, conflict with voters’ intent, and open the door for opt-out conversations for other state laws. What’s the next legal medical product a community might choose to prohibit – birth control? housing for people with disabilities?

    Unfortunately, our position did not receive majority support on the committee. It did, however, earn support from Representatives Peter Buckley and Ken Helm and Senator Floyd Prozanski.

    Some local newspapers also agreed with the wisdom of letting voters decide. Here are some good editorials from The Oregonian and the Eugene Register Guard.

    At this point the Senate has formed its own marijuana committee, the Senate Special Committee on Implementing Measure 91, and it will likely vote on SB 964, a medical marijuana bill that allows unilateral opt outs. If that bill passes, it will move to the House for consideration. The Senate committee will meet Monday at 5:00pm and the joint committee will convene Monday at 5:30pm.

    Despite the recent impasse, I believe there is good work we can still do together on issues like licensing, expungement of marijuana crimes, and energy use. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with our Senate colleagues on this work.

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    OLCC Marijuana Recommendations

    After a series of “Listening Tours” around the state, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has released its recommendations on steps that the board thinks would be helpful as we work to implement Measure 91. My goal is to implement the will of the voters in a way that is safe for kids, families, and communities, and creates opportunity for small businesses in Oregon.
    Click here to read the OLCC’s recommendations for recreational marijuana policy.

    Click here to read my earlier blog post, “In the Fields”, and see what I’ve been up to as co-chair of the Joint Committee to Implement Measure 91.