A month after Oregon voters said yes to regulating the production and sale of marijuana, one thing is clear: the state’s marijuana growers are getting organized.
They’ve got a political action committee and hired lawyers and a lobbyist. They’re meeting regularly to talk about the upcoming session of the Oregon Legislature and how to make sure they get their message across to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the agency charged with implementing the new marijuana law.
Early Wednesday, about 30 medical marijuana growers and cannabis concentrates producers crowded into a U.S. Bancorp Tower with a view of the Willamette River to talk shop and policy. The group included cannabis producers from across the state, including outdoor marijuana growers from southern Oregon.
The group, formed by Portland criminal defense lawyer Amy Margolis, is part of the Oregon Growers PAC, a political action committee formed to influence statewide marijuana policy.
Among the topics the group discussed Wednesday:
Marijuana testing. Lab testing for pesticides, mold, mildew and potency is a contentious issue in the medical marijuana industry. Growers, who typically are responsible for having their products tested before it lands on medical marijuana dispensary shelves, complained that the state’s cottage industry of labs produces inconsistent results. They complained, too, that the tests can be expensive.
Several growers and representatives of the marijuana testing industry are planning to meet with Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, next Tuesday to begin to address some of the problems with the testing industry.
Marijuana listening tour. Margolis urged growers to participate in the liquor control commission’s statewide listening tour, which has not yet been scheduled but is expected to take place early next year. The commission plans to visit local communities to hear from a wide range of people about how they want the state’s marijuana program to look.
Margolis said the industry needs professional, well spoken representatives to counter arguments the commission will hear from opponents of marijuana legalization.
“We need to demonstrate that people in the industry look like everybody else,” she said.
Southern Oregon marijuana growers. Margolis said the representatives of the growers’ group to head to southern Oregon next week for a daylong meeting with outdoor marijuana growers, a group that’s underrepresented in the political action committee. Southern Oregon is the heart of outdoor cannabis cultivation in the state; a 2012 analysis by The Oregonian found that pockets of the region have some of the highest concentrations of medical marijuana cardholders in Oregon.
Pot politics. Geoff Sugerman, a lobbyist for the growers and a medical marijuana grower and dispensary owner himself, told the political action committee about upcoming political fundraisers, including one for the Oregon House Democrats that the growers’ group will help sponsor. He said there are other upcoming political fundraisers the group also will contribute to or sponsor.
According to Oregon Secretary of State campaign finance reports, the political action committee raised $ 87,630 in 2014. It made political donations to Buckley, as well as to the campaigns of Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, and Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, this year.
Sugerman and Margolis said they plan to spend a lot of time in Salem meeting with lawmakers and tracking marijuana-related bills in the upcoming legislative session. Sugerman said the marijuana growers will be “active” participants in discussions around marijuana policy in the next year.
Said Sugerman: “I think we are in a really good spot right now.”
— Noelle Crombie