The Oregon Liquor Control Commission heads south to Ashland and Klamath Falls this week to hear from residents, elected officials and local leaders about marijuana regulation.
Rob Patridge, Klamath County district attorney and chairman of the liquor control commission, has presided over four community forums so far, including one in Eugene that drew more than 500 people. Under Oregon’s new marijuana law, the liquor control commission is charged with overseeing the state’s new regulated cannabis market.
This week’s first meeting takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Southern Oregon University’s Stevenson Union in Ashland. Another marijuana forum will be from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls.
The Oregonian/Oregonlive sat down with Patridge on Wednesday to talk about what he’s hearing from residents as he travels the state and some of the issues the agency is grappling with when it comes to marijuana.
Q: What are the takeaways from the OLCC’s tour so far?
A: Eighty-five percent of the people who’ve attended are people interested in the marijuana industry or medical marijuana. We have done a series of local government meetings as well when we have been in each area, so I think we have gotten a balanced perspective as far as the impacts to local governments and citizens. The 44 percent of the people who voted against it aren’t really showing up at these sessions. We are really hearing from the people we will be regulating.
Q: What are their concerns?
A: They want very limited regulation. Generally, they are saying — I think we heard (this) in Eugene very loudly — they don’t want many restrictions on items like edibles. They want government regulation kept light. They don’t want government interference at all.
Q: What are your concerns about the medical marijuana program and how it relates to a regulated recreational industry?
A: We are still trying to get a handle on medical and recreational marijuana. I think it’s tough to stand up a regulatory system when you have all these medical grows that are totally unregulated.
Q: At the eastern Oregon meetings, you spoke about your personal opposition to Measure 91. Has your thinking changed since you began working on the issue?
A: I don’t think my own thinking has changed. I have a charge by the people of Oregon and I take that seriously. I am probably extra diligent in trying not to let my personal feelings about marijuana affect the ability to move forward.
Q: Do you think Oregon should limit the number of grower or retailer licenses it issues?
A: I think that is a debate for the OLCC to have and the Legislature to have, whether we should cap or not. I don’t believe the proponents of Measure 91 envisioned a cap so if we are staying with the spirit of what the proponents want there would be no cap. We don’t have a cap on the number of bars and restaurants in a given area. Personally, I don’t envision a cap right now but I am certainly open to the discussion.
Q: Former Gov. John Kitzhaber made clear he thought the personal marijuana possession limits in the new law are too high. He also wanted the liquor control commission to set up a system that limits black market diversion and bans products and marketing that targets kids. Have you spoken with Gov. Kate Brown about how she feels about Oregon’s marijuana policy?
A: Kitzhaber came out and took a very strong stance on merging medical and recreational. … I haven’t talked to Kate at all about this. I’ve reached out to her but obviously she’s got an onslaught of activity. Kate has always had an open door. She and I have been very open and honest. I was the majority whip when she was in the (state) Senate. Kate and I have a very good relationship.
— Noelle Crombie