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Smoke Signals 12/9-12/16 

Prospective pot-preneurs learn the rules and regs

By Steve Holmes

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) should perhaps be known as the OLCCC since it is now taking the lead role in regulating Oregon's cannabis in addition to its liquor. Last Thursday, the OLCC held a workshop in Bend to help explain its new regulations and licensing process for recreational cannabis business owners.

The Bend workshop is one of a series of seven such workshops held around the state in December. The locations include Medford, Eugene, Salem, and Portland (Portland gets three workshops). These are intended as last-minute help for those business owners who are planning to help crash the OLCC's online application tool when it starts accepting applications on Jan. 4, 2016.

The workshop in Bend was well attended, with nearly 250 people asking all sorts of interesting questions about the cannabis business in Oregon. Given how many Oregonians are lining up to get into the cannabis business, one obvious question is whether there is any limit on the number of business licenses that will be issued. According to Amanda Borup, an OLCC official involved in the cannabis business licensure process, the OLCC will not impose a limit on the number of licenses it grants "at this time."

Any cap on cannabis businesses in Oregon would have to come from the Legislature. Unfortunately, the Democrat-controlled Legislature has shown a penchant for messing with legal cannabis, as it did when it passed a law allowing certain cities and counties to "opt-out" of having cannabis businesses.

But a major goal of cannabis legalization was to eliminate the black market, and the only way to do that is to have enough legal businesses to serve the market. So a cap in cannabis businesses would seem to be inconsistent with the goal of driving cannabis consumers to legal businesses. But it remains to be seen whether the Legislature will be able to understand how that logic follows from the prior policy decision to legalize and regulate cannabis in Oregon.

However, most questions from attendees, and most of the information provided by OLCC, center around the most significant features of OLCC's regulatory scheme. To start, the OLCC rules include detailed requirements for security and surveillance systems at cannabis businesses. All cannabis products will be laboratory tested before retail sale, and all products will be tracked "from seed to sale." The "seed to sale" tracking system is still being developed, but according to OLCC officials, will require training for business owners, who will be primarily responsible for operating the system.

The OLCC has also prepared a "Business Readiness Guidebook for Oregon Recreational Marijuana Operations." The guidebook seems intended to be a comprehensive business guide, and includes information on employment, land use, local building codes, workplace safety, environmental, and agricultural issues that are likely to arise in cannabis businesses. The guide is available online at the OLCC website.

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