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Meet the Oregon man who wants to roll you a $10,000 joint

Meet the Oregon man who wants to roll you a $10,000 joint


How much is a joint worth to you? You can pick them up at local weed stores in Portland for just a couple bucks or, if you literally have money to burn, you can get ahold of Tony Greenhand, a professional joint roller from Albany, Oregon, who will roll you something that costs upwards of $ 10,000.

While his occupation may seem whimsical, Greenhand, 26, takes his craft seriously.

“I basically jump out of bed and start rolling joints,” he told Vocativ, who first reported on Greenhand.

“I normally work everyday. I don’t really take days off,” he told the Oregonian/OregonLive by phone Wednesday. “The only reason I’m taking tomorrow off is because it’s my birthday and my girl is making me.”

The effort he puts in shows, too. Each joint is intricately crafted, filled with as much as four pounds of weed and can take dozens of hours to create.

Despite the sophisticated design of each spliff, they are all smokable.

Greenhand, which is his “artist name,” has done well for himself. His skills are at enough of a premium that customers have flown him all over the country — to Puerto Rico and Aspen, most recently — and he’s gotten requests to travel overseas, but doesn’t have a passport at the moment.

And, though he didn’t disclose who exactly was on his client list, it’s safe to say that anyone who can afford his services isn’t worried about cash.

“I do this for myself. It’s like a fine dinner. I’m an artist,” he said. But getting to rub elbows with celebrities doesn’t hurt either.

“I get to meet people that other people would love to meet and they fawn over my work,” he said. “That part is great.”

A few years ago, Greenhand was just another guy rolling fancy joints for his buddies. But then, at the urging of his friends, he posted a picture of one his creations to Reddit and, within a day, he was taking orders from all over.

Now he has a manager and an Instagram account with nearly 100,000 followers. (He said the social media company has deleted his account five times when they suspected him of selling weed, but he insists that the customers provide the green most of the time)

Serving up spliffs to celebrities is great, Greenhand said, but his favorite joint was a realistic weed sculpture he made of Spider-Man, which fetched a fair sum that went directly to charity. His largest, and most expensive, creation? A life size watermelon filled with 4.2 pounds of weed that would have cost roughly $ 10,000 to purchase if Greenhand hadn’t smoked it himself.

So if you’ve ever had a hankering to fire up a Pikachu, a smokable taco or a replica of Tommy Chong’s head filled with weed, now you know who to get in touch with.

—   Kale Williams

kwilliams@oregonian.com

503-294-4048

@sfkale

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In a first, Oregon State Fair to feature marijuana plants

In a first, Oregon State Fair to feature marijuana plants

The Oregon State Fair celebrates oddities like the “curviest vegetable” and the “most misshapen fruit.” Fairgoers can marvel over award-winning onions and pumpkins and snap photos of the top pig and llama.

This year, the state fair is adding a new attraction: prize-winning marijuana plants. For the first time, Oregon’s marijuana crop will be on display at the annual event, which runs Aug. 26 through Sept. 5.

Don Morse, chairman of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, the sponsor of the marijuana exhibit, said nine plants will be displayed in a greenhouse that will have its own entrance and exit. The area will be monitored by a security guard. Only people 21 and older will be allowed in.

Fair officials said the inclusion of cannabis plants is a nod to the newly legal status of the crop.

“This is really a reflection of where Oregon is now as a state,” said Dan Cox, spokesman for the fair.

He said the state fair is an “inclusive sort of forum,” especially when it comes to agricultural commodities. He said the fair is moving in the “direction that the entire state is moving.”

Morse said the plants will have ribbons just like any other prize-winning crop. The plants will come to the fair having already been judged by a panel of marijuana growers, including Ed Rosenthal, a well-known author and cannabis expert.

“We are doing it 4H style,” he said. “You get a blue, purple or yellow ribbon. We are celebrating the plant as a farm crop from Oregon.”

Fairgoers hoping for a sample will be disappointed, Morse said.

“We are not promoting the use of cannabis,” he said. “We are there to show plants to people over 21 what award-winning cannabis plants look like.”

— Noelle Crombie
ncrombie@oregonian.com
503-276-7184
@noellecrombie

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Portland pot dispensary targeted in Oregon marijuana industry’s first fraud investigation

Portland pot dispensary targeted in Oregon marijuana industry’s first fraud investigation

The letter from a top Oregon regulator delivered good news: Tisha Siler had won approval of her application for a medical marijuana dispensary license.

Siler, a California pot grower, would be a “valuable asset” to Oregon, the letter gushed.

There was more. The notice offered, in essence, to hand over a total of seven dispensary licenses without bureaucratic hassle, giving Siler a competitive advantage in Oregon’s expanding cannabis trade.

Problem was the October 2014 letter, right down to its official-looking letterhead, was fake.

The letter plays a key role in a state investigation into Siler, CEO of Cannacea, a dispensary that opened last fall in Northeast Portland. The fraud inquiry is the first of its kind in Oregon’s marijuana industry.

Investigators also are examining the role of a company that Siler hired to help attract investors. The firm, Green Rush Consulting, worked with a felon previously convicted in a financial scam.

Cannacea soon had a group of backers who were drawn to the state’s new recreational pot trade and the tantalizing prospect of sharing in a booming market expected to generate an estimated $ 181.2 million this year.

That vision of wealth unraveled. Relationships soured between Siler, a self-described herbalist and holistic counselor, and many of those she hoped would bankroll her operation. The venture spiraled into nasty accusations, multiple court claims against Siler and her dispensary and demands from investors that she return their money, according to court documents and the state’s investigative file on the case released to The Oregonian/OregonLive in response to a public records request.

No one disputes that the letter was fake. But no one admits to writing it and state investigators can’t pinpoint the author.

A Canadian entrepreneur said he invested $ 168,000 after one of Siler’s associates showed the letter to him. At least three other investors had material that included false claims about the business; it’s unclear how many of them made investments based on the bogus information, the state’s investigation indicates.

Siler, 45, who sells marijuana products she billed as treatments for chronic illnesses, has denied wrongdoing.

She told investigators that the Green Rush consultant fabricated the letter without her knowledge. In a statement, Siler described herself as the unwitting victim of people who tried to exploit her vision so they could turn a quick profit.

“There are people getting into the cannabis industry who were essentially run out of their last business and trying to reinvent themselves as cannabis industry specialists,” Siler wrote.

Regulators in Washington and Colorado, the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, have so far seen only a few financial fraud investigations related to their new markets, but securities law experts caution that the pot industry, viewed by some as “the next big thing,” is ripe for deception.

The federal prohibition against marijuana keeps most banks from working with sellers and producers, in turn giving potential investors few avenues to assess a company, said Keith Ketterling, a Portland attorney whose practice focuses on securities law.

“It makes it really hard to look at these operations,” he said, “and figure out financially where they really are and what they have really done.”

Officials with Oregon’s Office of Consumer and Business Services declined to comment on their investigation into Siler and Green Rush Consulting. Speaking generally, however, agency spokesman Jake Sunderland advised pot investors to do their homework.

“Anytime there is a hot new industry, there is always room for bad actors to take advantage of the excitement around it,” Sunderland said. “The key thing is to be aware of things that sound too good to be true.”

***

In 2014, Siler said, she searched online for an adviser to help her raise money for a Portland dispensary. She found Green Rush Consulting, an Oakland, Calif.-based company that offers to help people get business licenses for marijuana enterprises around the country. (The company is not affiliated with the Portland-based Green Rush Advisory Group.)

Siler said she paid about $ 25,000 for its services, which included drafting materials to solicit investors.

Email records show Siler began working with David Jacobs at Green Rush. He identified himself on emails to potential investors as director of development services for the company.

In 2005, Jacobs was sentenced to prison by a federal judge in Oklahoma for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for accessing victims’ bank and credit card information to obtain between $ 15,000 and $ 20,000, court records show. He was released in 2013, federal officials said. By August 2014, he was working with Siler, according to emails included in the state’s file.

It was Jacobs and later Canadian businessman Paul Mann, Siler told state regulators, who created materials for investors that promoted her unique reputation among state officials and the multiple medical marijuana dispensary licenses she would receive — elements that also ended up in the letter.

Those weren’t the only suspect claims. The materials were riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods, including academic degrees Siler never earned and prestigious honors she never received.

“Tisha Siler,” one of the documents noted, “can demonstrate a direct connection to state officials who want her working in their state.”

At one point, according to emails in the state’s file, Siler blasted Jacobs for including an award in investment materials that she said she didn’t receive.

She said she gave him only “basic information” about her work, though at least one resume she appears to have emailed to Jacobs includes an associate’s degree from Corpus Christi State University; the institution, since renamed Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that it has no record of anyone named Tisha Siler ever having attended.

At least four investors ended up giving money to Siler.

Brian Fox, a St. Louis investor, told a state investigator that he didn’t recall whether Siler or Green Rush gave him the information about Siler’s company, Cannacea.

Fox told the investigator that he was more inclined to invest if Siler had the licenses she claimed but said it wasn’t “a huge factor” in his decision. He said the letter strengthened his interest in the company, but he would have invested $ 50,000 anyway because Siler was a friend.

Another investor, Ryan Carstens of Sanibel, Florida, told investigators he decided to invest on the advice of Fox, who he said was a friend. He told investigators he wouldn’t have invested had he known the claims about Siler and Cannacea were false.

Fox and Carstens didn’t respond to telephone messages for comment.

A Pennsylvania woman, Wendy Baur, told investigators she met with Jacobs and Green Rush owner Zeta Ceti. She said Jacobs emailed what she described as “Cannacea documentation,” which she reviewed before she invested $ 45,000.

It’s not clear what information Jacobs emailed her and whether it contained the false information about Cannacea, but she told an investigator that she understood Siler was “tied into” Oregon’s marijuana program.

At some point in fall 2014, the Green Rush owner fired Jacobs, according to emails in the state’s file. Ceti then began working directly with Siler.

The emails indicate Siler played an active role in reviewing at least some versions of materials produced by Green Rush.

“Forwarding you back the draft (which is looking EXCELLENT!!) with notations in red,” says one email to Ceti dated Nov. 20, 2014. Siler promised to reply soon with additional information Ceti requested. “Believe me, I am on it.”

In another, she appears to have forwarded a photographed copy of the phony letter to Ceti. The email is signed by Siler.

“I have scanned in a copy of the letter that was actually sent to me in Cali from the chief operating officer of the OHA,” states the email dated Oct. 27, 2014. “As it is a physical letter, I have scanned it and sent as a pic. … Let me know if you need anything else.”

Siler, in a statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive, said she “did not compose” either email. She said someone faked them, but she didn’t know who.

Jacobs, according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records, returned to federal prison last year for violating the terms of his post-prison release. Jacobs said he was sent back to prison because he left New York and headed to California without first getting approval from probation officials and then failed to check in with them while he was there. He said his return to prison had nothing to do with his role at Green Rush. 

He denied creating the fake letter and said the information in the material drafted for potential investors came from Siler. She was deeply involved in preparing the material and the two were in in touch numerous times a day, he said.

“I didn’t have any reason to question it,” Jacobs said in a telephone interview this week from prison in Kentucky. “I took whatever information she gave me to be acceptable. I didn’t go through and personally vet everything she told me.”

Siler personally told him of her special relationship with Oregon regulators and the prospect of multiple dispensary licenses with limited red tape, Jacobs said. He was present when Siler made the claims while wooing backers – that she would have “favored nation status, that she could acquire additional licenses, that she would have first dibs,” he said.

He became associated with Green Rush, he said, after answering a Craigslist job ad. He said he didn’t know if Green Rush’s owner was aware of his criminal history, saying there was “no reason why he should have been.”

Green Rush is cooperating with the Oregon investigation, said Katy Young, a San Francisco-based attorney representing the company. She declined to answer questions about what Green Rush knew about Jacobs’ criminal past when it arranged for him to work with Siler, citing the investigation.

***

Mann, the Canadian businessman, said it was the letter that prompted him to invest in Cannacea in the first place.

He said he first saw it in late November 2014 during a meeting with one of Siler’s early associates in Cannacea, Brian Dawe.

Mann said in an interview that he knew Dawe from their work in the prison industry. Dawe worked with an association of correctional officers. Mann said he owns a company that sells protective equipment to corrections agencies.

Mann recalled meeting with Dawe at a Nashville hotel, where a corrections conference was being held. He said Baur, the investor from Pennsylvania, also was in the room.

Mann said Dawe showed him the letter and described Siler as an experienced cannabis grower with a popular following among medicinal consumers. Mann was impressed.

Dawe, in an email responding to questions about his role in Cannacea, said he planned to help Siler start her marijuana business. He said Mann was looking for opportunities for “investor friends in New York.”

“He said he thought he might be able to help us in Portland and asked if I would introduce him to Tisha Siler,” Dawe wrote. “He never offered to invest a penny of his money, only of others, and I never asked him to.”

Mann said he met Siler for the first time the following month, in December, and remembered how she “made a point of the fact that she managed to get these six (other) licenses and no one else had.”

Siler told him, Mann said, that Oregon officials “had approached her” about setting up her business in the state.

He decided to loan Siler about $ 168,000 to finish construction on the dispensary and cover other expenses, he said. He began as an investor and eventually became Siler’s business partner involved in daily operations, he said.

He saw Oregon’s new market as a potentially lucrative one. State lawmakers allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to sell to anyone 21 and older starting last fall, kicking off recreational marijuana sales.

Mann said he incorporated the claims about multiple licenses and Siler’s reputation among regulators in a presentation he made to six investors in early 2015; five did not invest, he said.

But he said a broker he showed it to shared it with representatives of Harvard Properties U.S., another Canadian company.

Mann said Harvard representatives came to Portland to meet Siler. In 2015, Harvard Properties bought the Northeast Portland building for Siler’s dispensary and the 13-acre property in rural Clackamas County for a marijuana cultivation operation, according to court and property records.

In all, Harvard Properties, paid more than $ 3 million for both parcels, court records show.

Mann said he never questioned the veracity of Siler’s claims or the letter. He made no effort to contact the state to verify the letter’s authenticity.

“Without that letter,” Mann said, “I would not have gotten involved. There is no question.”

***

Oregon officials first learned about the letter in July 2015 when an investor, Baur, called the Oregon Health Authority to ask about the status of the six additional medical marijuana licenses she assumed the state planned to issue Siler. The agency regulates medical marijuana dispensaries.

By then, Baur had split with Siler and Cannacea, according to records in the state’s file. Baur’s money was refunded. She signed a nondisclosure agreement, prohibiting her from discussing what happened.

However, documents included in the state’s file show Baur believed she “had been taken advantage of” by Siler.

Baur emailed a copy of the letter to Margaret Lut, a compliance specialist with the medical marijuana program.

“I’m sorry to say but the letter appears to have been created by someone,” Lut wrote to Baur on June 30, 2015. She went onto say that the state official whose name appears on the letter never signed documents for the medical marijuana program.

The agency forwarded the letter to the state Department of Business and Consumer Services, which opened a fraud investigation into Siler.

On Oct. 15, about a month after the agency opened its investigation, two officials from that department made an unannounced visit to Cannacea. They wanted to know what Siler knew about the letter.

Siler was already on the state’s radar after she allowed a vendor to give away marijuana concentrates and joints in the dispensary parking lot on the opening day of recreational marijuana sales, violating state rules. She paid a $ 2,500 fine, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Siler told the regulators that the letter was fake, according to investigator Dwayne Edsinga’s notes of the meeting. She said Jacobs had written it based on some questions he’d asked her. It isn’t clear from Edsinga’s notes what those questions were or how she responded to them.

She told the regulators that she didn’t use the letter to drum up investors.

Mann, who sat in on the meeting, said he was stunned by Siler’s statement. If the letter was fake, he wondered, why did she share it with him?

Once the meeting was over, Mann said he talked with Siler about the letter. He said she “did not have a good explanation” of what happened. He said he told her he would no longer try to find investors. He said he alerted an attorney for Harvard Properties, the company that had bought the properties for Siler’s business.

He said he’d tried ever since to get his original $ 168,000 investment back. He said Siler also owes him about $ 125,000 for professional services he provided.

***

In April, Harvard Properties filed lawsuits in Multnomah and Clackamas County circuit courts against Siler and Cannacea, trying to eject them from the dispensary and the growing operation. The complaint alleges Siler lives on the Clackamas County property in Mulino, which, according to the original real estate listing, includes a custom-built, two-story home featuring a chef’s kitchen and “awe-inspiring entry.”

In its Clackamas County complaint, Harvard Properties is asking for nearly $ 70,000 from Siler, claiming she hasn’t paid rent since September 2015.

The company filed a similar claim in Multnomah County for about $ 87,000 related to the dispensary property in Northeast Portland. In that case, Harvard claims it has repeatedly asked for rent and has received nothing.

Paul Hill, chairman and CEO of the Hill Companies, the parent company for Harvard Properties, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the company isn’t doing business with Siler or Cannacea at this point; the company said in court records that it had tried to negotiate a business deal with Siler, but those talks fell apart.

Hill said the Oregon venture was “too far away, too complicated.” The company plans to sell both properties.

Siteworks Design Build, a Portland design and construction company, has also filed a lien against the Northeast Halsey Street property, citing unpaid work amounting to nearly $ 64,000. The lawsuit asks the court to order that the property be sold so Siteworks can be paid what it is owed.

Siler, meanwhile, notified the Oregon Health Authority on June 17 that she planned to temporarily close Cannacea due to a dispute with her “partners.” She said she plans to reopen by July 15.

***

The state’s investigation into Siler and Green Rush continues.

The records released to The Oregonian/OregonLive, which include more than 1,000 pages, show extensive negotiations between Siler’s former attorney and the state over what role Siler played in creating and distributing sham investor material and whether Siler should pay in civil fines.

The state can issue a proposed order spelling out the wrongdoing and imposing a fine. The parties can either negotiate a resolution, which typically involves agreeing to a set of findings and paying a fine, or the case goes before an administrative law judge.

The person involved could potentially sign the order but not agree to the findings or deny them. The state could also conclude that no wrongdoing occurred.

In March, William Caffee, Siler’s lawyer then, questioned the state’s ongoing interest in Siler and Cannacea. He emailed Dorothy Bean, a lawyer for the state, claiming Siler “made honest albeit naive mistakes of judgment” in working with certain people. He blamed Jacobs and Mann for creating misleading investor materials and pointed out that ultimately no Oregonians invested in the business.

Bean, who went back and forth with Caffee for months over Siler’s role, pushed back.

“Rather than monitoring her business properly,” Bean wrote, “Tisha buried her head in the sand and allowed blatant, irresponsible misrepresentations and forged documents to form the ‘mix of information’ that a reasonable investor would consider in making a decision to invest in Cannacea.

“Ignorance,” she wrote, “is not a defense, nor is reliance on professionals.”

Caffee, in an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive in June, said he no longer represents Siler. He declined to say why.

Mann, who said he had no experience with the marijuana industry until he came to Portland and got involved in Cannacea, said he just wants his money back.

“I have some damaged relationships within my own money network,” he said, adding, “I am a big boy. That’s business for you.”

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Upcoming marijuana use prevention campaign to target Oregon youth

Upcoming marijuana use prevention campaign to target Oregon youth

Oregon health officials are launching a campaign this month aimed at persuading young people to stay away from marijuana — or at least put it off until they are of age.

The Oregon Health Authority, armed with nearly $ 4 million from the Oregon Legislature to develop and evaluate the pilot program, is attempting to raise awareness among Oregonians 21 and younger about the health effects of marijuana use, policy specialist Kati Moseley said Friday afternoon.

In the year since Oregon became one of a handful of states that allows anyone 21 and older to possess pot and grow it in their backyard, the public health concern at hand is how legalization “changes the social norms around its use,” Moseley said, and subsequently affects the attitudes and actions of young people

“[These young people] are more likely to see it normalizing in society,” she said.

Moseley said that in developing the media campaign, it was important to find a way to present this information to young people in a way that is “palatable, believable and motivating.”

In order to do so, the public health division drew on focus groups of people aged 12 to 20 all over the state to inform the campaign.

“This age group is tricky to market to because they are so heavily marketed to,” she said. The agency was careful in choosing messages that would resonate with this group, she said.

Their research found that two core messages resonated most with their audience: brain development isn’t complete until your 20s and young people have the best chance to reach their full potential if they don’t use marijuana to get high during their youth; and being high will impair your ability to drive, bike, play sports and do other activities, she said.

These two messages formed the “bedrock” of creative component of the campaign, she said.

The campaign, which will include print ads, videos, social media and a micro-website or “microsite,” will go live July 11, she said.

Moseley said that one major difference in getting through to young people compared with adults is that television isn’t as effective in reaching younger audiences, the organization found. Similarly, they found that teenagers and young adults are less likely to go to a website for more information and more likely to go to social media.

“I’m confident that the campaign will be well-accepted with our target audience,” she said.

— Francesca Fontana

ffontana@oregonian.com

503-294-4009

@francescamarief

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Legal pot in Oregon: One year later

Legal pot in Oregon: One year later

Oregon is marking its first year of legal marijuana and with it some milestones: We are buying a lot of pot and the sales are generating millions in tax revenue — but not in the eastern half of the state, where the idea remains particularly unpopular.

Other cannabis trends worth noting: Oregon recorded an uptick in marijuana-impaired drivers last year and the Oregon Poison Center fielded more calls from people who felt sick after overindulging.

Last July 1, Oregon became one of a handful of states where anyone 21 and older can possess pot and grow it in their backyard.

The state’s official recreational marijuana marketplace, complete with seed-to-sale tracking, won’t open until later this year. But the Legislature gave the go-ahead for early recreational pot sales earlier this year, allowing consumers to walk into one of hundreds of existing medical marijuana dispensaries to buy pot, including marijuana-infused edibles and extracts.

Some key takeaways since the landmark law took effect:

Oregonians have embraced the industry, at least with their wallets.

Oregon has collected $ 14.9 million in tax revenues from the sales of recreational marijuana since January – translating into an estimated $ 60 million in sales.

Marijuana sales are taxed at 25 percent, though medical marijuana remains untaxed. The revenue has far outpaced state economists’ expectations and that doesn’t include the recently expanded sales of spendier edibles and concentrates.

The tax on recreational pot eventually will be replaced with one ranging from 17 percent to 20 percent once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission begins regulating recreational marijuana sales later this year.

The Legislature set the base tax rate at 17 percent, but cities and counties can adopt ordinances that add up to 3 percent more.

In Portland, home to 147 dispensaries selling recreational marijuana, the City Council in June voted unanimously to place a 3 percent pot tax on the Nov. 8 ballot. City officials said the tax could conservatively raise an estimated $ 3 million to $ 5 million a year for Portland.

Leafly, a marijuana review site and guide to dispensaries, says recreational cannabis sells for an average of $ 13.67 a gram in Oregon, compared with $ 14.68 a gram in Washington.

In June, dispensaries started selling marijuana-infused edibles, extracts and topical products that had until now been available only on the medical marijuana market. The new choices have been an additional boon to sales, shop owners say.

Case Van Dorne and Joel Jennings — owners of a dispensary on Portland’s east side and another near the Beaverton border — say business is brisk. Their west-side location on bustling Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway sees 400 to 800 customers on a typical Friday, and the east-side shop sees between 250 and 400.

“Doctors come in in scrubs, lawyers in suits, chefs fresh out of a greasy kitchen – people are stopping by to pick up some weed and going home to watch a movie,” Van Dorne said.

Police are finding more drivers under the influence of marijuana.

Between July 1 and Dec. 31 of last year, 50 drivers were accused of driving under the influence of marijuana, compared with 19 for the same time period the previous year, according to the latest Oregon State Police statistics.

Another 93 drivers were accused of having marijuana along with other drugs in their systems at the time they were stopped, compared with 44 the previous year.

Overall, the agency’s data shows driving under the influence of any substance rose by 7 percent in 2015.

Sgt. Bob Ray, spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies have seen a similar upward trend among drivers, especially those combining alcohol and marijuana. His agency plans eventually to train all 186 deputies in evaluating whether a motorist is under the influence of drugs, including cannabis, he said.

“It’s clearly much more than it was before” legalization, Ray said. “I don’t know that people realize the effects, especially when you combine marijuana and alcohol, how much more impaired that makes you.”

Much remains unknown about the impact of legal marijuana on public health in Oregon.

Public health experts have begun gathering a wide range of data on how much marijuana Oregonians are consuming and in what form now that it’s legal to possess, grow and buy.

The latest data, collected in 2014 before recreational sales began, shows 1 in 10 adults in Oregon use marijuana. That rate has exceeded the national average for the past decade.

The state won’t get a clear picture of teen marijuana consumption until 2017 when it conducts the next Oregon Healthy Teens Survey, said Julia Dilley, a senior research scientist and epidemiologist who works for Multnomah County.

Among young adults in the county pot use isn’t only common but, according to 2013 data, appears to be on the rise. Already, Multnomah County teens use marijuana at rates higher than teens in the rest of Oregon and the country, and they say the drug is easy to get, according to 2014 public health surveys.

Using a federal grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Oregon and Washington are looking at how local regulation, including bans on pot shops, affects public health.

They’re looking at rates of treatment for marijuana dependence and emergency room visits, data that’s not yet available.

Oregon Poison Center statistics show the number of calls related to marijuana ingestion has ticked up each year since 2013, when the center received 112 marijuana-related calls. Last year, the agency handled 158.

In the first three months of this year, the center received 86 calls about marijuana, which associate medical director Rob Hendrickson speculated is a “gross underestimation of total statewide harm” since most emergency doctors don’t often report mild cases involving adults seeking medical treatment after consuming pot.

The poison center is studying what symptoms people experience when they seek emergency room care after smoking or eating marijuana and at what doses they experience problems, said Hendrickson, a professor of emergency medicine and a medical toxicologist at Oregon Health & Science University.

Dilley said even Colorado hasn’t drawn solid conclusions from the public health data that it’s collected since legalizing marijuana in 2012.

“Oregon is in the same boat,” she said. “Oregon is unique in that the regulated recreational market isn’t officially open even though we have retail sales. We are in a bit of a gray period of implementation.”

Many communities, especially in eastern Oregon, remain opposed to recreational pot.

According to the latest tally kept by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, more than 100 cities and counties throughout eastern Oregon, have opted out of allowing licensed marijuana businesses.

They are allowed to ban recreational marijuana production and sales under a law passed by the Legislature in 2015. Communities where at least 55 percent opposed Oregon’s legalization measure could opt out without referring an ordinance to the voters if they decided before last December. Any city or county, however, can still refer an opt-out measure to voters at the next general election in November.

Marijuana activists in two communities – Grant and Klamath counties – tried to overturn local bans earlier this year with referendums that local voters rejected.

One consequence of opting out: Governments that reject legal pot don’t get a share of the tax revenue generated statewide by recreational marijuana sales.

Hundreds of Oregonians with marijuana-related arrests and convictions are seeking to have old cases set aside.

Nearly 400 people with marijuana-related arrests or convictions sought to have those crimes set aside last year, according to statistics kept by the Oregon Judicial Department.

The Legislature last year made significant changes to the way the criminal justice system treats marijuana: Lawmakers reduced penalties for most marijuana-related offenses, including growing and selling cannabis, and made it easier for people to have old pot convictions set aside, meaning sealed from public view.

Under the new law, when someone applies to have a previous marijuana-related conviction set aside, the court must consider how that person’s crime would be classified today.

While the process doesn’t erase the crimes from their records, it allows people to claim on an employment application or housing form that they’ve never been convicted of a crime.  

The judicial department data shows an increasing number of people are apparently taking advantage of the set-aside provision. In 2013, for instance, 213 people applied to have arrests or convictions in marijuana cases sealed; last year, the number rose to 385. So far this year the state has received 249 applications.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Oregon has among the “most progressive” policies on marijuana in the country, especially when compared with places like Florida, where possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a felony.

In states such as Alaska and Washington, where voters have approved marijuana reform, lawmakers have been slow to adapt, Armentano said.

“Lawmakers are resistant to those changes and they have used the time period after these laws are voted on to try to amend the laws to make them more restrictive than the voters intended them to be,” he said. “Oregon is going down a very different road.”

Even in the era of legal marijuana, some activities remain off-limits.

People can’t consume marijuana in public. State and local regulations have put a damper on large-scale social events in Portland that feature pot consumption, essentially outlawing them. Employers can drug-test their workers and landlords can prohibit cannabis consumption and cultivation on their property.

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Oregon OKs four software companies to track marijuana sales

Oregon OKs four software companies to track marijuana sales

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has approved four software companies for tracking retail marijuana sales, a requirement of the state’s recreational marijuana licensees. The companies include a startup from one of Portland’s best-known and most controversial tech entrepreneurs.

Oregon’s rules for recreational marijuana retailers require that they record their activity, and software systems approved Monday track sales, packages, transfers, plants and harvests, among other functions.

The companies approved Monday are OMMPOS of Astoria; Flowhub, from Denver; Greenbits, from Portland; and Portland-based Odava.

Odava is run by Scott Kveton, a leading figure in Portland’s tech renaissance until a former girlfriend accused him of sexual assault two years ago. Prosecutors did not charge Kveton and he reached an agreement with the woman to resolve a civil lawsuit.

In a regulatory filing Tuesday, Odava indicated it has raised $ 170,000 to finance the business and is seeking another $ 130,000.

The OLCC said it’s not endorsing any of the software approved Monday and said licensees can submit their tracking data manually if they prefer.

Update: This article has been updated with information about Odava’s funding.

— Mike Rogoway

mrogoway@oregonian.com
503-294-7699
@rogoway

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Oregon issues guidelines on marijuana ‘gifting’ and giveaways

Oregon issues guidelines on marijuana ‘gifting’ and giveaways

Marijuana is legal to possess in Oregon, but rules around where you can consume remain a puzzle of state and local rules.

Portland officials this month said they’d begin cracking down on events where people pay admission and receive cannabis samples once they’re in. The city considered such events public. And officials say paying to get into a venue where marijuana is being handed out is similar to selling pot – something only licensed marijuana businesses can do under the law.

Now the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has weighed in as well, reminding the public that while people 21 and older may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana in public, they can’t consume it in establishments that hold a liquor license.

Establishments with liquor licenses, such as bars and restaurants, are considered public, the agency said. Those establishments include stores that hold a license to serve or sell alcohol, wineries, breweries, distilleries and events with caterers who serve alcohol.

As for pot-themed events at locations without liquor licenses, the state said people should check with local government rules to see if the venue is considered a public place. Such events may also conflict with the state’s Indoor Clean Air Act, which prohibits smoking and the use of devices like vaporizer pens in public areas and work places.

Like the city of Portland, the liquor commission said “gifting” recreational marijuana to someone 21 or older isn’t allowed in situations where there’s a cover charge, paid admission, donations, tip jars, raffles, fundraisers or bartering.

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Oregon marijuana edibles makers launch public campaign: ‘Try 5’

Oregon marijuana edibles makers launch public campaign: ‘Try 5’

Dave McNicoll has a few words of advice for those planning to try marijuana-infused edibles for the first time: Take a bite, not too much, and wait.

McNicoll’s group, the Oregon Responsible Edibles Council, has launched a public education campaign aimed at preventing novice marijuana consumers from eating too much all at once.

The campaign is called “Try 5,” as in 5 milligrams of THC, and encourages consumers to start with a low dose when it comes to marijuana-infused snacks and treats.

Or as they say in Colorado, start low and go slow.

The campaign comes just weeks before the latest major development in Oregon’s recreational marijuana program: Starting June 2, anyone 21 and older may walk into a medical marijuana dispensary and buy marijuana-infused edibles, extracts and topical products, like balms and lotions.

The expanded sales are part of the state’s slow rollout of its recreational marijuana program, which is not set to officially launch until later this year. Lawmakers last year gave dispensaries the go-ahead to start recreational sales early by selling a limited amount of cannabis flowers, plants and seeds to anyone 21 and older. This year, lawmakers added pot-infused edibles, extracts and topical products.

Until now, marijuana-infused treats and foods have been available only to medical marijuana patients and their caregivers. Makers of these products said they welcome the expanded customer base but worry that rookie consumers will overindulge on tasty snacks and treats only to regret it hours later when their potent effects set in.

McNicoll’s group has spent about $ 5,000 on the campaign, which includes posters, some produced on hemp paper, T-shirts and buttons that he hopes to distribute to all of the nearly 350 dispensaries selling on Oregon’s recreational market.

McNicoll said his group wants to protect people from having a lousy experience on their first cannabis-infused edible.

“We want to be very proactive,” said McNicoll, whose Eugene company Dave’s Space Cakes makes mini chocolate cupcakes. “We want to show the state that we care so much about this issue and we are trying to be as safe as possible. We are willing to fund it ourselves.”

Edibles pose a challenge for state regulators in states with legal marijuana, like Oregon, Colorado and Washington. The products are popular and often potent. Even a bite-sized candy can pack a punch. Onset is often delayed by an hour or two, prompting inexperienced consumers to eat more and compound the effects.

Even for experienced cannabis consumers, a strong dose of an edible can be too much.

“My max is 5 milligrams,” said Leah D’Ambrosio, who owns Sconed, a Portland company that makes cannabis-infused toffees. “If I have more, I am done. If I ate an edible that was 10 milligrams, I would be so high.”

State regulators have spent a lot of time in the past year crafting rules for the sale of marijuana-infused edibles and ultimately settled on concentration limits half of what Colorado and Washington allow. That policy decision was guided largely by public health concerns about novice consumers and children who might unintentionally consume pot-infused treats.

Though the Oregon Health Authority established a 5 milligram serving size for edibles that will be sold on the recreational market once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission takes over regulating sales later this year, the package limits under the so-called early start program allow for more potent products.

Under state rules for early sales, dispensaries may sell a single-serving, low dose edible that contains up to 15 milligrams. Packages may contain multiple servings, but they don’t have to be marked off for consumers.

Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the health authority, said it would be a challenge for manufacturers to make consistent 5 milligram products because the low potency level can be difficult for labs to measure.

He said state officials hopes processors “would clearly delineate smaller 5 milligram serving sizes within that low-dose package. And they don’t have to aim for 15 milligrams. They can go lower.”

That’s unlikely, said McNicoll. After all, when it comes to marijuana, potency sells. He said he expects most products on the early start market will come in a 15 milligrams.

McNicoll said the state’s decision to allow the higher concentration limit makes his message even more essential for novice consumers.

“It’s more important to get that out now: 15 (milligrams) is going to be too much for some people,” he said. “People need to know they don’t need to eat the whole candy bar.”

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Oregon on track to collect $43 million in pot taxes this year

Oregon on track to collect $43 million in pot taxes this year

Oregon is expected to take in about $ 43 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana this year under a revised estimate by state economists.

The state’s unexpectedly large tax haul so far prompted economists to revisit their original projections, which had put revenue somewhere between $ 2 million to $ 3 million for the whole year. 

But Oregon has already collected $ 10.5 million in taxes in the first three months. That translates into at least $ 42 million worth of pot sold on the regulated market so far this year. And that figure doesn’t account for medical marijuana sales, which are untaxed. Marijuana sold on the recreational market is subject to a 25 percent tax.

The new estimates, prepared by the Office of Legislative Revenue, were submitted to the Legislature’s joint committee overseeing implementation of marijuana programs. The committee is one of many meeting this week in Salem to hear updates on key programs and policies in preparation for the 2017 session.

The committee got a broad overview from four agencies charged with regulating marijuana as well as collecting taxes from pot sales.

Economists expect about $ 12 million in tax revenue will go toward the cost of regulating marijuana, which Mazen Malik, a state economist, estimates will cost about $ 25 million overall in the current budget cycle. The rest of those expenses will be covered by licensing fees, he said.

The rest will be distributed according to a formula spelled out by law: 40 percent  to the state’s Common School Fund, 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism and drug services, 15 percent to Oregon State Police, 10 percent for city law enforcement, 10 percent for county law enforcement and 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment services.

Malik, a senior economist with the Office of Legislative Revenue, estimates that tax collections from pot sales will drop to $ 31 million in 2017, when a lower tax rate goes into effect.

Oregon’s medical marijuana stores have been allowed to sell a limited amount of cannabis flowers, as well as starter marijuana plants and seeds, to anyone 21 and older since last October. The state’s temporary 25 percent tax didn’t kick in until Jan. 1.

Starting June 2, recreational marijuana shoppers will be able to buy cannabis-infused edibles, extracts and non-psychoactive topical products. Those products, too, are subject to the state tax.

That tax eventually will be replaced with one ranging from 17 percent to 20 percent once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission takes over regulation of recreational marijuana sales later this year. The Legislature set the base tax rate at 17 percent, but cities and counties can adopt ordinances that add up to 3 percent more.

The higher-than-anticipated tax collections prompted officials with the Oregon Department of Revenue this week to ask for additional staff to help handle the influx of cash payments, a revenue official told lawmakers Monday.

Deanna Mack, the agency’s legislative liaison, said a “large percentage” of dispensary owners are making cash payments. She said the agency has received individual cash payments as large as $ 90,000.

The federal prohibition on marijuana complicates the pot industry’s ability to do conventional banking; most banks won’t work with the cannabis industry so businesses typically deal in cash.

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, a member of the marijuana committee, asked Mack and JoLene Swint, another revenue official, about those payments.

“It’s fascinating that you have remittances that are not in cash,” he said. “What form are those remittances taking?”

“Don’t tell me product,” he added to laughter from the packed hearing room.

Check or money orders, the revenue officials said. Mack said she expects the number of dispensaries making cash payments to increase because business owners say they’ve gone through multiple bank accounts as institutions discover the nature of their work.

The committee heard about a wide range of issues, among them: Oregon Liquor Control Commission officials are worried about the lack of marijuana testing labs in the pipeline for licensing.

Danica Hibpshman, director of marijuana licensing and compliance for the agency, said the lack of labs is a “major concern.” Six labs have applied; only one is in the process of becoming certified, a requirement of pot labs.

Certified and licensed labs are critical to the launch of recreational marijuana sales later this year because products must undergo testing for pesticide and potency.

Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, pressed liquor commission officials about the agency’s security requirements for marijuana production. He said representatives of the wine industry in the Applegate and Williams areas – both popular centers of outdoor marijuana cultivation — are unhappy about the sight of “8-foot-high wood fencing that looks like a bunch of Fort Apaches out there.”

State rules require outdoor marijuana production be hidden from public view. The liquor commission also allows growers to request an exemption from the rules.

“The question the wine industry has is: How can they help to get that requirement dispensed with?” Wilson asked.

Commission officials said they didn’t know how many marijuana producers have asked to be exempted from the requirement.

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, called the security requirement “ridiculous.”

“We don’t do that for any other crop,” he said. “I don’t know why we do it for this.”

An official with the Oregon Health Authority’s medical marijuana program told lawmakers that the number of people applying for or renewing their medical marijuana patient card during the 12-month period ending in March increased by 4.5 percent compared to the previous year.

André Ourso, manager of the program, speculated that the larger marijuana possession limits for patients, as well as the wider range of products they can buy, could be factors in the increase.

He added that more than half of people applying for medical marijuana cards qualify for a reduced fee because they receive government benefits or are veterans.

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Portland Trail Blazers radio analyst Antonio Harvey among first in Oregon set to get license to grow pot

Portland Trail Blazers radio analyst Antonio Harvey among first in Oregon set to get license to grow pot

Oregon expects to issue its first batch of recreational marijuana licenses Friday to an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs including longtime marijuana growers and others new to the industry like former Trail Blazer forward Antonio Harvey who still works for the franchise as a popular radio personality.

Among others in the state’s newest crop of licensed pot growers: John Plummer, an owner of the trendy Doug Fir Lounge in Portland.

Harvey on Thursday told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he’s informed the Trail Blazers of his family’s plans to start a recreational cannabis business and that his contributions will be limited to that of an investor. He said his bosses asked him not to “flaunt” his role in the company.

“I don’t partake in marijuana,” he said. “I don’t use any of the products. For me, this was a business opportunity and a chance to support my wife and her family.”

The Trail Blazers declined to comment.

Harvey, 45, had stints with six NBA teams, and played for the Trail Blazers from 1999-2001. He joined the Blazers broadcast team to provide color commentary alongside Brian Wheeler in 2005 and has been with the team ever since.

Harvey and his wife, Jennifer Speer-Harvey, and brother-in-law, Daniel Speer, are on a list of eight businesses set to receive a license this week from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for their marijuana production operations. Their business outside of Canby in rural Clackamas County – and their brand – is Terra Mater.

Speer-Harvey said her family has deep roots in the nursery business and welcomed the chance to branch out into Oregon’s newly legal pot market. She said her family began preparing for the application process since last fall and filed the paperwork in January.

“We have worked very hard to get to this point,” she said. “Our goal was to be among the first.”

Harvey is the second Trail Blazer alumnus to enter Oregon’s cannabis market. Former forward and NBA All-Star Clifford Robinson has said he hopes to start a marijuana business. He’s already registered a name: Uncle Spliffy Sports Cannabis.

In addition to Harvey’s business, the liquor commission plans to sign off on licenses for the following companies: New Breed Seed, Far Out Farms, Yerba Buena, Smokey Mountain Farm, Pacific Wonderland Craft Cannabis, Southern Oregon Cannabis Company and Loved Buds.

The commission is charged with issuing six types of marijuana licenses: researcher, lab, producer, processor, wholesaler and retailer. State officials have given priority to cannabis producers so stores can open with plenty of supplies later this year.

The agency has received 624 applications from cannabis growers. In all, the agency has received an estimated 906 applications.

When it comes to marijuana production for the recreational market, the state has created a tiered licensing system based on the size of the grow site and whether the marijuana is grown indoors or outside.

A Tier I license for indoor growers allows producers to cultivate up to 5,000 square feet of space. Tier II covers between 5,001 and 10,000 square feet of production.

For outdoor growers, a Tier I license allows cultivation of up to 20,000 square feet, a little less than a half-acre. Growers who hold a Tier II license could cultivate between 20,001 and 40,000 square feet or a little less than an acre.

The licenses expected to be approved on Friday are a mix of outdoor and indoor cultivation.

Plummer, an owner of the Doug Fir Lounge on Burnside and the East Chinatown Lounge in Old Town, as well as the downtown shoe store, Johnny Sole, is also expected to receive a license to grow recreational cannabis.

He said his farm, Pacific Wonderland Craft Cannabis, will be located on an organic vegetable farm in rural Clackamas County. The company’s product will carry the brand Bull Run Craft Cannabis, he said.

The venture is Plummer’s first into the marijuana industry. He called regulated recreational marijuana a “game changer” because of the tax revenue it can generate for the state and the jobs it will create.

“A lot of people don’t realize how much money this is going to pull into the state,” he said.

Laura Rivero, operations manager at Yerba Buena, a marijuana cultivation facility in the small Washington County community of Laurel, said the company’s staff worked hard to submit a thorough application so they could receive one of the first licenses.

The company has grown quickly, she said. A year ago, it had only two employees. Today, it employs 13, all of whom receive health and dental benefits and paid vacations. 

“It’s very, very compliant, by the book and aboveboard,” she said. “We are trying to be an example for other businesses in this industry.”

Though the Riveros previously grew under the state’s medical marijuana program, Laura Rivero said the state’s new medical marijuana rules make it impractical to continue. She said Yerba Buena will focus exclusively on producing for the recreational stores.

“That is where the market is heading,” she said.

— Noelle Crombie

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