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Marijuana has no medical value, will stay classified as dangerous drug, DEA rules

Marijuana has no medical value, will stay classified as dangerous drug, DEA rules


The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Thursday rejected requests to reclassify marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug, though it will allow expanded production to support medical research.

The agency said it consulted with the U.S. Health and Human Services Department before making its decision. The review came in response to requests from the governors of Rhode Island and Washington, who asked the federal government to remove cannabis from its list of Schedule I substances. 

That category of drugs, which includes heroin, is defined as substances that have a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.”

The DEA concluded that’s where marijuana, a drug used by one in 10 Oregonians, belongs.  

The agency said cannabis “does not meet the criteria for currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” that there is a lack of “accepted safety for its use,” and it has “a high potential for abuse.”

The announcement disappointed cannabis legalization advocates in Oregon and nationwide who pressed the Obama administration to remove marijuana altogether from the federal government’s schedule of controlled substances. 

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, said he welcomes the policy shift that allows for increased medical research, but he slammed the federal government’s decision to maintain marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug. 

“This decision doesn’t go far enough and is further evidence that the DEA doesn’t get it,” said Blumenauer, who has been an outspoken proponent of reforming federal marijuana policy.

Retaining the drug’s status, he said in a statement, “continues an outdated, failed approach — leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws.”

Thursday’s decision does nothing to address issues confronting marijuana businesses operating in states like Oregon and Washington where the drug is legal. Legal marijuana producers and retailers, for example, have trouble accessing banking services because of the federal prohibition on marijuana.

Oregon is among 25 states where marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use.  

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, called the decision “largely a political one and not a scientific one.”

“That the decision by the DEA fails to acknowledge the scientific evidence and the emerging public policy that is now in place in a majority of this country is simply an act of willful ignorance,” Armentano said.

Although the federal government decided to maintain marijuana prohibition, it also relaxed rules for producing cannabis for medical research. The government currently allows research on cannabis, but the approval process is especially complicated and involves marijuana produced under a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The product is cultivated at a government-run facility based at the University of Mississippi.

The DEA said marijuana producers who meet agency requirements may register with the agency to supply researchers, as well as “strictly commercial endeavors” that would allow for the development of pharmaceutical products.

The announcement makes clear that the agency will register a limited number of licenses to producers of research-grade cannabis. 

Dr. Colin Roberts, a pediatric neurologist and director of the Doernbecher Childhood Epilepsy Program at OHSU, said the prospect of an expanded supply of cannabis is promising.

Roberts’ program is participating in several active clinical trials on pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol produced by Insys, a pharmaceutical company. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a component of the cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, cannabidiol does not have psychoactive properties.  

While the federal government’s announcement does little to ease the thicket of red tape for researchers, it could lead to a wider variety of strains and products for scientists to work with. He said it’s possible that OHSU may pursue an effort to produce cannabis for research. 

“It depends on do we have enough people interested in doing the research with those products?” he said. “I know there is a lot of interest in the state because we have a lot of people who feel they can produce high quality products.

“Our ability to take those products from them and use them for for research — we can’t do that now,” he said.

Mowgli Holmes, a biologist whose Oregon company is focused on cannabis genomics, said the federal decision to increase sources of research-grade marijuana “is a pretty small bone to throw at us.”

Holmes served on a state task force that earlier this year recommended the creation of an independent marijuana institute to support and conduct world-class research into the drug’s medical and public health benefits.

He said the new stance does nothing to address the bureaucratic burdens facing researchers who want to investigate marijuana. And it doesn’t allow for agricultural research into the plant.

“All the basic agricultural research that needs to be done still can’t be done under any circumstances,” Holmes said.

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Northeast Portland medical marijuana dispensary falls through, highlighting problem for pot businesses trying to find real estate

Northeast Portland medical marijuana dispensary falls through, highlighting problem for pot businesses trying to find real estate

A cancer survivor’s plan to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Northeast Portland has run into a buzz saw of opposition and bureaucracy that’s forced her to abandon the project.

Janice Grossman last year leased a unit in a commercial development on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard financed by the Portland Development Commission, the city’s urban renewal and economic development agency. The complex, Vanport Square, has a governing association made up of owners of the 17 units who must sign off on any new leasing arrangement.

The problem: A majority of association members didn’t want a dispensary next door and they weren’t consulted before the plans moved ahead. They argued that a marijuana shop wouldn’t mesh with the family-friendly atmosphere they want to foster.

The development’s insurer, upon learning of the dispensary, threatened not to renew the association’s coverage. The city development commission intervened too, filing a temporary restraining order against Marina Zaré, the owner of the unit. The agency said Zaré disregarded restrictions and rules for leasing the space when she arranged to lease it to Grossman for the dispensary.

The dispute highlights what many prospective marijuana retailers say is a common problem for them: While advocates and some entrepreneurs see marijuana as a business opportunity, property owners often are wary of the legal and financial risks associated with the industry. Medical and recreational marijuana may be sold in Oregon, but the drug remains illegal under federal law.

“And so prospective marijuana business owners find themselves between a rock and a hard place: They need real estate, but on the other hand it’s hard to find a landlord,” said Ben Pirie, a Portland lawyer who represents Grossman.

Zaré bought the unit in 2008 for about $ 320,000 with plans to open a chiropractic practice. She said the business never took off. She made multiple unsuccessful attempts to sell and lease the unit, but she said complicated issues related to how the development was originally financed scuttled any deal.

Last year, eager to make the space work, she said she agreed to lease it to Grossman. The alternative, she said, was foreclosure.

The association’s board this week issued a statement to the media about the situation, saying Zaré was told repeatedly over the past two years that she needed to get approval in advance from the lender and the association for any prospective tenant.

“She chose not to heed these warnings,” the statement said. Her actions, the board said, put other businesses in the complex at risk and prompted the association to reach out to the Portland Development Commission, the long-term lender.

Zaré, for her part, acknowledged that she didn’t get approval to lease the space.

She said the city agency has “pretty much bullied me” to drop the dispensary arrangement since learning about the plan.

From the development commission’s perspective, the problem with the arrangement isn’t that it involves marijuana but that it violated the ownership agreement and threatened the association’s insurance coverage, said Shawn Uhlman, an agency spokesman.

The agency’s complaint against Zaré, filed last week in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges that the “distribution of marijuana” would put the development commission’s $ 6 million in collateral in the complex “at risk of underinsurance.”

Zaré said she tried to address the insurance issue by asking her attorney to refer the association to an insurance broker who works with marijuana-related businesses. She said Grossman agreed to pay any difference between the original policy and a new one.

The association, in its statement, said its “main objections” to Grossman’s plans are “primarily business related, not morality based.” However, the board goes on to note that most owners of units in the complex don’t support the addition of a marijuana dispensary, the statement said.

“They would prefer to see another small community business that helps to increase the family-oriented retail and service vitality of Vanport Square and MLK Blvd in general, and reinforces the nature of their own neighborhood-oriented businesses instead of another dispensary,” the statement said, noting that seven dispensaries already operate along Northeast Martin Luther Kind Jr. Boulevard between Broadway and Lombard Street.

Meanwhile, Grossman, who planned to call her shop Penthouse Greenery Wellness Center, estimates she’s spent about $ 60,000 on the space that she’s leaving behind. Grossman, who said she used cannabis oil to treat her illness, blamed the association for dooming the effort.

“These are a bunch of bigots who don’t care who they hurt as long as they don’t have my type of business in their shopping center,” she said via text message to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Grossman said while Zaré can eventually sell the space, she is stuck with a steep financial loss. “I am the big loser,” she said.

Zaré said she faces mounting legal bills from the ordeal and has stopped making payments on the unit.

She said she had a feeling when she bought the place that it would lead to grief. Zaré named the corporation she formed to make the purchase, Vanport PITA, an acronym for what it’s become.

“I knew back then that it was a pain in the ass,” she said.

— Noelle Crombie

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Kate Brown signs bill giving medical marijuana dispensaries go-ahead to sell edibles, extracts

Kate Brown signs bill giving medical marijuana dispensaries go-ahead to sell edibles, extracts

Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday signed a bill that allows anyone 21 and older to purchase marijuana extracts and pot-infused edibles from Oregon dispensaries.

The provision is part of Senate Bill 1511, which also allows recreational pot shops to sell tax-free medical marijuana to patients.

The Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday said it first needs to draft rules for the sale of extracts and edibles before stores may sell them to recreational users and declined to say when the products would be available to the 21 and older market.

The Oregon Legislature last year allowed dispensaries to sell a limited amount of marijuana flowers, as well as young pot plants and seeds, to consumers 21 and older. Edibles, extracts and other marijuana products long available on the medical market have been off limits to recreational shoppers.

By the end of the year, the production, processing and sale of recreational marijuana will shift to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, but for now recreational sales fall within the health authority’s purview.

The new law allows stores to sell a single low-dose unit of an edible and the equivalent of a vaporizer pen containing a marijuana extract to a person 21 and older. Shops also may sell non-psychoactive products intended for use on a person’s hair or skin.

— Noelle Crombie

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Oregon medical marijuana officials answer questions about new plant limits, rules (Q&A)

Oregon medical marijuana officials answer questions about new plant limits, rules (Q&A)

Oregon is rolling out a series of complex rules that will govern the medical marijuana industry, and, for the first time, regulate production and processing in the state.

On Tuesday, the Oregon Cannabis Association, which represents many in the state’s burgeoning pot industry, held a forum in Portland with the Oregon Health Authority’s André Ourso, manager of the health authority’s medical marijuana section, went over a wide range of questions submitted by industry representatives. 

Here are the questions and Ourso’s answers. (This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.)

Production

Q: How many mature plants can a grow site have under these new limits, and are the limits different for residential locations in the city versus industrial and farm use?

A: Inside city limits in an area zoned residential, 12 mature plants.

Inside city limits but not in a residential zone, or outside city limits, 48 mature plants.

See related: New rules may disrupt Oregon’s extracts industry

Q: When do these limits go into place, and is there a difference between when the statute says they do and the grace period OHA has created?

A: The plant limits went into effect on March 1, under House Bill 3400. Senate Bill 1511, passed this session but not yet signed by the governor push that date back to April 1, 2016 . But again, as of now, the plant limits are in effect.

Q: How will OHA be enforcing those limits? How do tracking and enforcement differ for people growing at home and under 12 plants?

A: If OHA inspects a grow site and finds more plants then are permitted, growers could have their cards revoked. OHA will only be inspecting grow sites if there are more than 12 plants permitted to be grown at an address, or grow sites whether the grower is not growing at the patient’s residence.

Q: Will inspections be random or scheduled?

A: OHA is limited in scope regarding what is inspected at grow sites. Primarily, OHA is looking at plant counts and patient/growers cards at each site.

At this point, inspections are complaint driven. Eventually, there will be random inspections, but we may base inspections off of audits of the monthly reports, looking at compliance and consistency with plant counts and the amount of marijuana produced that is reported to OHA.

Q: What will you do with the information collected from the tracking/reporting system?

A: The information collected is primarily to ensure OHA’s compliance with federal guidelines in the Cole memorandum. That memo advises states to have a robust regulatory system and to control black market diversion.

In addition, generally the information will be analyzed and used to inform policymakers in the Legislature and executive agency about the state of the program.

We will look for trends and patterns on the amount of medical marijuana in the state and how supply and inventory may affect the market and industry and what patients have access to.

The data will also assist the agency in responses to public safety issues, such as the ability to recall an adulterated or dangerous product.

Q: The Legislature created a stay for those who applied for OLCC licenses; what will a grower be required to do to qualify for that stay?

A: The stay provision is in SB 1511, and that bill has not yet been signed. Assuming that will be signed, a grower will have to file a notice with OHA that includes:

  • The names and signatures of all the growers at a grow site address attesting that they all consent to being licensed by OLCC and that an application was filed with OLCC by April 1.
  • All the names of the patients for whom marijuana is being produced at the address.
  • Proof that all patients were sent a notice by certified mail that describes the patient’s rights to the plants and usable marijuana and that once licensed the patient’s rights will terminate.

Q: Many growers expect to be grandfathered in under the bigger plant limits; what are the qualifications for grandfathering, and when are those forms due by?

A: There is no due date for submitting a grandfathering petition, but a grower is subject to enforcement of the lower plant limits if the address is not grandfathered.

The specific information that is required for a petition is in our rules, OAR 333-008-0050, and there is a form on our website.

Basically in order to be grandfathered, all growers at a particular address must have been growing at the address continuously since December 31, 2014.

Q: What happens to patients when a grower gets their OLCC license? Can they keep their cards?

A: A patient cannot designate an address that is licensed by OLCC as a marijuana grow site. If a grower gets licensed by OLCC, or more specifically, if a grow site address is licensed by OLCC, OHA will notify the patients at that address that if they want to designate another grow site, they can. But the current grower and grow site are terminated.

There is a provision in SB 1511 that would allow an OLCC licensee to serve medical marijuana patients, and OLCC will be adopting rules to implement that new law when SB 1511 becomes law.

Q: Are you going to require water rights, security and land use compatibility statements for growers?

A: Growers are not required to submit a land use compatibility statement.

Growers have to comply with Oregon water law, which means they have to have a water right, have water supplied from a water provider that has a legal water right, or use water in a manner that is exempt from the water right requirements.

There are few exceptions from the water rights requirements if marijuana produced at a grow site is being transferred and sold to processing sites or dispensaries.

Growers have to keep marijuana out of the public view; that is the only security requirement.

Processors

Q: Under the new rules and in statutory language, there are three primary terms for processed material: extracts, concentrates and cannabinoid product. What are those products?

A: An extract is a substance obtained by separating cannabinoids from marijuana through a hydrocarbon-based solvent like butane or propane, or by using high heat or pressure.

A concentrate is a substance made through a solvent such as vegetable glycerin or vegetable oil, using a process that does not involve high heat or pressure, or using mechanical processes.

A cannabinoid product includes edible and topicals -– basically anything that contains cannabis that is not usable marijuana itself, or a concentrate or extract itself.

Also in OHA rules, a person may only process and transfer cannabinoid products, concentrates or extracts if the processor has received an endorsement from OHA for that type of processing activity.

Endorsement types are: (a) cannabinoid edible processor; (b) cannabinoid topical processor; (c) cannabinoid concentrate processor; (d) cannabinoid extract processor; and (e) cannabinoid tincture, capsule, suppository, or transdermal patch processor.

Q: OHA has created a registration/licensing process for processors; do these processes differ based on the three types discussed above?

A: Yes, the rules are different for applicants making extracts, concentrates and products.

Extract makers have specific building and equipment requirements that will need to be inspected. Edible processors have to meet requirements for a commercial kitchen through the Oregon Department of Agriculture, for example.

Applicants should review OHA’s rules carefully.

Q: Are there more serious criminal consequences for processing extracts without a license than concentrates or topical products?

A: Processing extracts is a crime unless you are registered by OHA or licensed by OLCC.

Q: We know that processors, if they intend to sell to a medical dispensary, will need a medical license/registration; when will applications be available for those?

A: Processors can begin to apply on April 1.

Q: After an application is submitted, what will the licensing process be like? Will there be inspections, and will there be differences among the sub-categories of processors?

A: The registration process will be similar to the registration process for a dispensary.

The rules outline a set of requirements that need to be met and timeframes associated with meeting them.

An applicant applies and submits docs related to the processing site, a general location description of the site, a list of owners and PRPs (person responsible for a processing site) so a background check may be run on them.

Multiple PRPs can be named, but one must be designated as the primary. After the initial criteria is met, the applicant will be notified and given 30 days to submit additional information, which includes a floor plan and documentation showing lawful possession of the site.

If insufficient or incomplete documentation is received, the applicant will have 10 calendar days to provide the additional documentation or the application will be returned as incomplete.

Once complete information is received, the primary PRP will receive notice that they have 60 days from the date to submit a readiness form.

An applicant may request an extension of the 60-day deadline if they can demonstrate that the deadline cannot be met for reasons outside the applicant’s control, such as the inability to obtain building permits.

Q: When is the due date for these licenses?

A: Anyone can apply anytime after April 1. There is no closing date.

Q: It looks like Oct. 1 is the last date for dispensaries to accept product from unlicensed processors. Is that right?

A: Yes, starting Oct. 1, 2016, all products transferred to a dispensary must come from a registered processing site.

Q: What happens in between now and Oct. 1 from an enforcement perspective?

A: OHA will not be taking any actions against anyone who is not registered as a processor between now and Oct. 1. However, a dispensary could be disciplined for accepting an extract from an unregistered processor.

Q: When will the agency post its serving size and concentration limits for the medical and recreational markets?

A: OHA will post its draft permanent rules for concentration limits, labeling and testing for public comment by April 15. Those rules will go into effect by June 28.

It is unlikely that the draft permanent rules that are posted will change much between April 15 and June 28.

Bottom line, by June 28, the rules governing concentration limits will be set.

Q: What is required for getting a license for extraction?

A: Other than needing to meet all the general requirements, extraction processors do have a set of specific requirements that must be met.

Extractions must be processed in a fully enclosed room that is spark proof and equipped with evacuation fans and lower explosive limit detectors.

Extraction processors must use commercially manufactured, professional-grade, closed-loop extraction systems designed to recover the solvents and built to recognized and generally accepted good engineering standards.

The equipment and facility must be approved for use by the local fire code official; meet any fire, safety and building code requirements; have an emergency eye-wash station in any room in which extraction is being processed; and have all applicable material safety data sheets available.

Dispensaries

Q: Do any of these new rules impact dispensaries?

A: Yes, though many of the requirements are the same and the rules have just been reorganized.

There are no inventory reporting requirements beginning June 1.

Q: There are new dispensary reporting requirements; what are those, and when do they go into effect?

A: The first set of reporting will be required by April 10 and is for dispensaries that participate in early retail sales. The report due on April 10 will include the sales from retail customers.

Detailed information about this will be sent out to dispensaries in the next week.

Dispensaries are required to report to OHA starting June 1.

They have to report the amount and type of marijuana items transferred to and from dispensaries within the last month. The reporting is not on a per-transaction basis but is in aggregate for the month.

For example, the total amount or number of cannabinoid edibles transferred by a processing site during the past month would have to be reported.

Q: There are also new testing requirements. When do those go into effect, what should dispensaries do with product that was tested under the old process, and how does that affect intake?

A: The permanent testing rules will go into effect in late June, and growers, processors and dispensaries must comply with the new testing rules by Oct. 1.

If after Oct. 1, 2016, a dispensary has products that were not tested under the new rules, it can still transfer those products to patients or caregivers but they have to be marked as “NOT TESTED UNDER THE NEW RULES.”

Q: Dispensaries have new limits on the amount of product they can sell; what are those new limits?

  • 24 ounces of usable marijuana
  • 16 ounces of a medical cannabinoid product in solid form
  • 72 ounces of a medical cannabinoid product in liquid form
  • 16 ounces of a cannabinoid concentrate, whether sold alone or contained in an inhalant delivery system
  • 5 grams of a cannabinoid extract, whether sold alone or contained in an inhalant delivery system
  • 4 immature marijuana plants
  • 50 seeds

Q: It looks like there are new timelines and additional rules for renewals of dispensary licenses; what are those, and what are the new pieces?

A: A dispensary needs to apply for renewal not more than 90 but at least 60 days before the registration expires.

If a dispensary doesn’t comply with that deadline, it could be subject to civil penalties. A dispensary absolutely has to reapply before the registration expires or the dispensary will have to file a new application.

Q: What is the most effective way to communicate with OHA?

A: 855-244-9580 (Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or email: medmj.dispensaries@state.or.us

Q: If a dispensary wants to sell edibles, does it need a separate license? When does that go into effect?

A: On and after Oct. 1, a dispensary selling edibles has to be licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a retail food store.

Q: When will dispensaries know exactly what the new packaging and labeling requirements are?

A: OHA will post draft permanent rules for concentration limits, labeling and testing for public comment by April 15.

Those rules will go into effect by June 28.

OLCC is establishing the packaging rules, and it also will have permanent packaging rules in effect by June 28.

Q: May dispensaries sell hemp products?

A: Right now a dispensary can sell a hemp product if the product is not intended for human application, consumption, inhalation, ingestion or absorption.

There was legislation passed this session that may require OHA to amend its rules concerning industrial hemp products.

— Noelle Crombie

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Christians making medical marijuana for kids say all God’s creation is useful

Christians making medical marijuana for kids say all God’s creation is useful

Six Christian brothers in Colorado have developed a marijuana extract they’re calling Charlotte’s Web — and they say it’s proof everything in God’s creation has a purpose.

The Stanley brothers “saw God’s hand at work when some local parents found that giving the dark oil to their epileptic children ended their violent seizures,” Religion News Service reports.

Charlotte’s Web is low in THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, but high in healing CBD oil, the non-profit news service reports. The brothers repeatedly heard success stories from parents.

“I was angry that I had been told marijuana was evil and of no medical benefit,” Joel Stanley, the eldest of the brothers, told the Religion News Service. “At that point, it was very easy for me to reconcile marijuana with my Christian faith.”

More than 500 families have relocated to Colorado to access the oil, Religion News Service reports. To help cover the cost of the move, the Stanley brothers created a nonprofit called Realm of Caring with help from two of the first parents to use the oil, Paige Figi and Heather Jackson.

“God made the plant, and said in Genesis 1:31 that everything he made was very good,” Stacey Mobley, minister of the church of Christ of Colorado Springs, told the Religion News Service. “I believe Heather is driven by obligation because she is a Christian to do good to all.”

Visit the Religion News Service for the full story.

— Melissa Binder

mbinder@oregonian.com
503-294-7656
@binderpdx

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Bill making it easier for smaller medical marijuana growers to enter recreational market awaits Kate Brown’s signature

Bill making it easier for smaller medical marijuana growers to enter recreational market awaits Kate Brown’s signature

A bill that would make it easier for some smaller medical marijuana growers to enter the regulated recreational market is headed to the governor’s desk after clearing the Oregon House Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1598 passed in a 38-20 vote. The Oregon Senate approved the bill earlier this week.

SB 1598 would allow certain growers to apply for a state recreational marijuana license without having to first obtain a land-use compatibility statement.

Those statements are issued by local governments and confirm that a marijuana production site meets local zoning rules.

Under current law, all marijuana producers applying for an Oregon Liquor Control Commission license must get a land-use statement. The proposed legislation removes that requirement for small-scale marijuana growers located outside of city limits, provided they were registered with the Oregon Health Authority before Jan. 1, 2015.

The provision is intended to help bring smaller growers into the regulated recreational marijuana system through a so-called micro-canopy license, which would come with lower fees and fewer requirements.

“There are many competing interests in the cannabis world,” said Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass. “This committee has worked tirelessly to balance those competing interests.”

Senate Bill 1598 also adds medical and research marijuana grows as recognized farm crops, making them easier to locate in exclusive farm use areas and protecting them from lawsuits filed by neighbors over perceived nuisances like odor and noise. Recreational marijuana grow sites are already recognized as farm crops under state law.

The proposed legislation also makes clear that local governments can impose “reasonable” time, place, and manner regulations on those marijuana operations. The bill also:

• Creates a sub-category of dispensaries for nonprofits. These establishments would be allowed to accept excess marijuana from growers and sell to patients for little or no cost.

• Requires the health authority to study medical marijuana access in areas underserved by dispensaries and retailers once the state’s regulated marijuana industry is off the ground.

Denis C. Theriault contributed to this report.

— Noelle Crombie

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Pot bill melding recreational, medical sales sent to Kate Brown’s desk

Pot bill melding recreational, medical sales sent to Kate Brown’s desk

A bill that would allow recreational marijuana stores to sell tax-free medical marijuana to patients heads to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk after being approved Friday by the Oregon House.

Senate Bill 1511 also would allow people 21 and older to buy marijuana-infused edibles and concentrates during the state’s so-called early sales program. The Oregon Senate on Tuesday voted for the bill along party lines.

The Legislature has taken up three key marijuana-related bills during its 35-day session.

SB 1511, approved 46-9, expands the products people 21 and older may purchase from dispensaries before the Oregon Liquor Control Commission assumes control of recreational sales later this year. For now, those sales are limited to flowers, seeds and young marijuana plants. The bill expands those options to include concentrates and edibles.

Another bill, Senate Bill 1598, passed out of committee earlier this week and is awaiting a Senate vote. That bill makes it easier for some small medical marijuana growers to enter the recreational system.

The proposed legislation also clarifies that home medical marijuana grows aren’t subject to inspection by the Oregon Health Authority and creates a sub-category of dispensaries for nonprofits. These establishments would be allowed to accept excess marijuana from growers and sell to patients for little or no cost.

— Noelle Crombie

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Oregon Senate signs off on bill allowing recreational pot shops sell to medical patients

Oregon Senate signs off on bill allowing recreational pot shops sell to medical patients

The Oregon Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would allow recreational marijuana stores to sell tax-free medical marijuana to patients.

Senate Bill 1511 also would allow people 21 and older to buy marijuana-infused edibles and concentrates during the state’s so-called early sales program.

The bill, which now heads to the House, is one of several key policy changes the  Legislature has made to the state’s medical and recreational marijuana programs during its 35-day session, which began earlier this month.

A bill that removes a two-year residency requirement for marijuana license holders passed the House and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Tuesday’s vote was delayed by Senate Republicans who argued that the bill’s inclusion of an emergency clause coupled with a provision that regulates revenue violates the Oregon Constitution. They asked that the bill be referred back to the joint legislative committee overseeing marijuana legalization bills so the emergency clause — which would put the bill into effect immediately with the governor’s signature — could be removed.

“This is another symptom of this short session,” said Sen. Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass. “We all feel pressure to just move on, no matter if we are in doubt or not.”

After conferring with Mark Mayer, deputy legislative counsel, about the legality of the bill’s language, Senate leaders moved ahead. The bill passed 18-10 along party lines.

Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, co-chair of the joint committee, said the bill, which gives recreational shops the go-ahead to sell to patients, strikes a balance between the needs of the emerging recreational market and sick people who rely on the drug to cope with their symptoms.

She highlighted a recent Oregon Health Authority survey of that showed a vast majority of dispensaries plan to pivot to the recreational market, a shift that has worried medical marijuana patients and advocates. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees recreational marijuana regulation, is expected to launch sales later this year.

The bill also expands the products people 21 and older may purchase from dispensaries before the liquor commission assumes control of recreational sales. For now, those sales are limited to flower, seeds and young marijuana plants. SB 1511 expands those options to include concentrates and edibles.

The joint legislative committee on Tuesday also voted on a separate bill, Senate Bill 1598, which makes it easier for some medical marijuana growers to enter the regulated recreational market.

The bill would allow certain growers to apply for a state recreational marijuana license without having to first obtain a land-use compatibility statement. Those statements are issued by local governments and confirm that a marijuana production site meets local zoning rules.

Under current law, all marijuana producers applying for an Oregon Liquor Control Commission license must get a land-use statement.

The proposed legislation removes that requirement for small-scale marijuana growers located outside of city limits, provided they were registered with the Oregon Health Authority before Jan. 1, 2015.

The provision is intended to help bring smaller growers into the regulated recreational marijuana system through a so-called micro-canopy license, which would come with lower fees and fewer requirements.

Senate Bill 1598 also adds medical and research marijuana grows as recognized farm crops, making them easier to locate in exclusive farm use areas and protecting them from lawsuits filed by neighbors over perceived nuisances like odor and noise. 

Recreational marijuana grow sites are already recognized as farm crops under state law. The proposed legislation also makes clear that local governments can impose “reasonable” time, place, and manner regulations on those marijuana operations.

The bill also:

— Clarifies that home medical marijuana grows aren’t subject to inspection by the Oregon Health Authority.

— Creates a sub-category of dispensaries for nonprofits. These establishments would be allowed to accept excess marijuana from growers and sell to patients for little or no cost.

— Requires the health authority to study medical marijuana access in areas underserved by dispensaries and retailers once the state’s regulated marijuana industry is off the ground.

— Noelle Crombie

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Oregon proposes new rules for medical marijuana production

Oregon proposes new rules for medical marijuana production

Oregon’s medical marijuana advocates say the state’s proposed rules for production impose expensive and unnecessary burdens on growers and will ultimately harm patients who rely on the drug to cope with a wide range of health problems.

The Oregon Health Authority’s draft rules, set to take effect March 1, are part of a sweeping law passed last year that regulates Oregon’s cannabis industry.

The proposed requirements represent regulators’ efforts to put some checks on medical marijuana production in a state where growers have operated largely without oversight for more than a decade. The rules call for round-the-clock security and regular reports to the health authority about how many plants a grower has and where their harvests ended up.

The health authority also may inspect grow sites with more than a dozen plants or those selling marijuana to processors or dispensaries.

Growers who plan to move cannabis into the dispensary market or those who grow for more than two patients or for a patient who doesn’t live on the property are most affected by the proposed rules. Patients who grow their own medical marijuana or those who grow for one other person on their property also face new requirements, though they are not as extensive.

Many in Oregon’s medical marijuana community have pressed the state to delay implementing the rules until next year. They argue that the health authority has not notified growers of the particular changes that impact them and that those who do know about the rules don’t have enough time to comply.

“Most growers and patients have no idea about this yet,” said Cedar Grey, a Williams grower with the Oregon Sungrown Growers Guild, which represents outdoor growers in southern Oregon. “And it completely changes the program.”

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, a staunch advocate of the state’s medical marijuana program, blasted the health authority in an interview Thursday with The Oregonian/OregonLive, saying the agency has “run amok.”

“The proposed rules are a direct assault on the (medical marijuana) program and the small family farm,” said Prozanski.

Prozanski, co-vice chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91, said the law passed last year related to marijuana regulation included provisions intended to address two problems: exploitation of the program by out-of-staters and so-called “card stacking,” a common practice that involves growers amassing multiple patient cards to legitimize large-scale grow operations. As a result, he said, new plant limits and residency requirements were included in the law.

(See related: Oregon’s largest medical marijuana grow site serves only California patients) 

But he said lawmakers did not intend for the health authority to issue detailed security and water use rules for small-scale growers. He said lawmakers are likely to try to address what he sees as problems with the proposed rules during the upcoming session, which begins Monday.

Andre Ourso, manager of the health authority’s medical marijuana section, said said he couldn’t speak to the Legislature’s intent in crafting the marijuana provisions. He defended the new security rules as part of an effort to protect growers from theft and other potential criminal activity at grow sites.

“We are a public health agency,” he said. “We are concerned with Oregonians’ overall health and safety. That is the angle that we are coming from.”

Among the new requirements:

Record keeping: Growers must establish online accounts with the health authority where they are required to file monthly reports on the number of plants they have, their harvests and how much they transferred overall to dispensaries and patients.

Reporting requirements: Medical marijuana growers producing cannabis for dispensaries, more than two patients or patients who live off the property must track their use of pesticides and fertilizers. They are required, under the draft rules, to list the names of products they use, the dates they used them, the names of those who applied them and how much was used. Those records must be kept for two years.

Plant limits: Starting March 1, medical marijuana growers who grow in residential areas within city limits can have up to a dozen plants. If the site isn’t in a residential zone or is outside of city limits, then growers are allowed up to 48 plants.

“Grandfathered” grow sites: Some medical marijuana producers may be eligible to have more plants, depending on the number of patients who were on their rolls on Jan. 1, 2015. Those limits are capped at 24 plants for people living in residential areas within a city and 96 for those outside of those areas.

Residency requirements: For the first time, the Oregon Legislature has imposed a residency requirement for growers and patients. People registered as growers on or before Jan. 1, 2015, must prove they’ve lived in the state for the past year. Otherwise, they must show proof that they’ve lived in Oregon for the previous two years. Patients also must be Oregon residents.

Water rights: The proposed rule requires that growers have a water right for irrigation or “nursery use” and that they have “legal authorization” to use the water.

Under a provision of last year’s landmark marijuana regulatory law, growers may be reimbursed by patients for their labor, something previously not allowed.

That change, health authority officials said, means marijuana production becomes a “commercial enterprise,” which subjects growers to “existing water laws that they haven’t been subject to before,” health authority spokesman Jonathan Modie said.

Security: Growers must install round-the-clock camera surveillance with video backup for two years. The system must be equipped with motion sensors. Cannabis must be stored in a locked safe or vault.

Ourso said growers may apply for waivers from the security requirement. He said growers may cite cost and practicality as reasons for the request.

— Noelle Crombie

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Oregon proposes higher medical marijuana fees

Oregon proposes higher medical marijuana fees

Medical marijuana growers would be subject to a $ 200 annual fee for every patient they grow for under a proposal being considered by the Oregon Health Authority.

Medical marijuana growers in Oregon can grow cannabis for up to four patients. Under current rules, the state charges $ 50 for every patient a grower takes on, but recent changes that expanded the health authority’s oversight of production and processing prompted officials to propose the steeper fees to help cover the agency’s expenses.

The fee increase is estimated to boost revenue from $ 1.3 million to $ 5.2 million in the 2015-17 budget cycle.

People who grow only for themselves will not be subject to any additional expense. The cost of obtaining an Oregon medical marijuana card — $ 200 – also remains the same. Oregon, along with Minnesota and New Jersey, have the highest medical marijuana patient fees in the country, though New Jersey’s card is valid for two years, according to ProCon.org, a nonpartisan group that tracks controversial issues.

Oregon’s proposed fee increase was discussed at a meeting Monday of the health authority’s rules advisory committee, which is in the process of drafting regulations for the medical marijuana industry as well as parts of the recreational marijuana industry, such as serving sizes. The fees, if finalized, would go into effect March 1.

The agency also proposed a $ 4,000 annual fee for medical marijuana processors, people who extract cannabis or produce concentrates.

Oregon’s medical marijuana patients have long complained about cost of obtaining a card, revenue that is used to fund the state’s medical marijuana program, including dispensary regulation, as well as a wide range of public health efforts.

In the 2013-15 budget cycle, medical marijuana fees generated about $ 22.1 million. It costs $ 8.1 million to administer the medical marijuana program, which employs 38 people. The state spends another $ 8.8 million in revenue generated by medical marijuana fees on other public health programs, including emergency medical services, clean drinking water programs, contraceptive care, school-based health centers and other public health efforts.

The agency said the medical marijuana budget, which started with a beginning balance, carried over some of the funds into the 2015-17 budget cycle to cover public health initiatives outside of the medical marijuana program. 

In setting new fees for growers, Andre Ourso, manager of the health authority’s medical marijuana section, said the agency took into consideration the potential shift of patients and dispensaries away from medical cannabis into the state’s regulated recreational program.

He said the agency conservatively estimates that 40 percent of dispensaries will transition to the recreational market. The state collects a $ 4,000 fee from dispensaries each year; Oregon is home to 334 registered dispensaries, according to the state.

“We may lose a significant amount of revenue from dispensaries,” said Ourso.

At the same time the agency prepares for a possible decline in medical marijuana participation, it will be responsible for at least some regulation of production for the first time since Oregonians voted for medical marijuana in 1998.

Growers producing for the dispensary market are subject to new production limits, record-keeping requirements and the potential for inspections by state regulators.

Ourso said the medical marijuana program may add more employees, depending on how many growers and dispensaries end up in the medical program and fall under the new rules.

Cedar Grey, a longtime medical marijuana grower in Williams, said worries the health authority plans to spike fees to discourage participation in the medical program. He said patients will bear the cost of any fee increase and many can’t afford to pay more.

“It looks like they are treating the program as a cash cow and trying to extract as much money from patients as they can,” Grey said.

Grey, who processes cannabis oil under the brand Siskiyou Sungrown, plans to work in the medical and recreational markets and expects to pay about $ 14,000 in annual licensing fees to the health authority and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational cannabis.

He said he understands the liquor control fee since the recreational program is geared toward profit-making enterprises, but he said fees to participate in the medical market are too high.

“The medical side is designed to help patients,” he said.

— Noelle Crombie

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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