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    Cannabis Law Update

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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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    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.

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    In the Fields

    Last November Oregonians voted to legalize, regulate, and tax the adult use of marijuana. I am now co-chairing the legislative committee to shepherd implementation. Our committee’s goal is to carry out the voters’ will in a way that keeps our kids and communities safe, prevents excessive incarcerations, and supports creation of new business opportunities for Oregon farmers, chefs, and other entrepreneurs.

    One of my concerns as a person raised in southern Oregon, where six generations of my family has lived, is to make sure that rural and outdoor growers have a chance to succeed in this new economy. That means protecting the patients and growers who have come to rely on the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program during this transition period. It also means avoiding imposition of extremely complex and costly requirements that would drive less sophisticated growers away from the legal market.

    Measure 91 presents an opportunity for communities that have relied heavily on timber to diversify their economies to include industrial hemp and marijuana crops. This transition, coupled with transition to more sustainable forestry practices, could create jobs for local people while at the same time protecting forests, clean water, and wildlife.

    By successfully implementing Measure 91, we can create a positive new chapter for communities around Oregon.

    Photos are from our site visit to Williams, Oregon. We visited with farmers, processors, and other leaders from the Oregon Sungrown Growers Guild.