February 14th is not just Valentine’s Day in the world of the Oregon lawmaking. It is also Oregon’s birthday and this year’s version brought with it a key legislative deadline. Inside the Capitol, Monday was a day of hectic efforts to try to keep bills from dying. Policy bills, like the ones of importance to OCA, had to have been passed or moved out of their committee of origin by this crucial date. Each session, this first hard deadline is heartbreaking for many advocates and legislators as they face the news that their efforts to pass legislation were unsuccessful. Valentines candy comes for others, though. The deadline creates impetus for outstanding issues to get resolved, consensus to be found, and bills to be advanced. Though much work remains for us, thankfully our outlook at the moment falls strongly into the latter category. Here’s the latest on quite another busy session for cannabis:
HB 4016 will establish a moratorium on all new cannabis licenses, excluding labs, with an effective date of January 1, 2022. The moratoriums will expire on March 1, 2024. The bill also takes small steps along the long road to advance equity, allowing OLCC to assign expired, relinquished or otherwise suspended licenses. We expect these assigned licenses to favor equity applicants. HB 4016 passed out of the House Economic Recovery and Prosperity Committee with strong bipartisan support, on a vote of 9-1. It will now move directly to the House Floor for a vote.
Read Section 1 of this -9 amendment for more detail:
SB 1506 would allow local governments to increase the sales tax on cannabis products from 3% up to 10%. A difficult public hearing took place on this bill in the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee on February 7th. As of the time of this writing though, no votes have been scheduled. This committee remains open throughout the session, so we will continue to monitor and engage heavily in efforts to defeat this proposal. You may recall that a similar committee, and then the entire Senate, voted to pass this bill very late in the 2021 Session. The bill in 2019 was defeated in the House.
HB 4048 would include cannabis as an “emerging sector” and direct the Oregon Business Development Department to conduct an economic analysis of the cannabis sector to help prepare Oregon for interstate commerce or federal decriminalization. The House Economic Recovery and Prosperity Committee voted on party lines to move the bill to the House Rules Committee. It will remain alive there up until the end of session.
SB 1519 cites the disproportionate impact on communities of color from enforcement of the drug war. It then seeks funding to develop and implement an Equity Investment Program to award grants to organizations that provide culturally responsive services. The bill passed the Senate Labor and Business Committee on a 3-1-1 vote and now heads to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.
HB 4061 targets water theft by illicit grow operations, an increasing problem for southern Oregon communities. The bill prohibits a person from hauling or arranging to haul water to an unregistered or unlicensed cannabis grow site from willfully or negligently providing false information to law enforcement or the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD). It also directs OWRD, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, and Oregon Department of Agriculture to make reasonable attempts to provide notice of the requirements in the bill to potentially interested persons. The bill establishes stiff civil penalties for violation of record-keeping requirements related to a person who purchases water to be hauled. It stablishes civil penalties and Class A misdemeanor criminal penalties for violation of the prohibition against providing false information to law enforcement or OWRD. It establishes Class A misdemeanor criminal penalties and a maximum fine of $25,000 for violation of the prohibition against hauling or arranging to haul water to an unregistered or unlicensed cannabis grow site that is growing a quantity of plants not allowed under state law if the person owns the water hauling business or owns, operates, or is responsible for the relevant grow site. It establishes Class A misdemeanor criminal penalties and a maximum fine of $25,000 for appropriation of surface or ground water without a permit for an unregistered or unlicensed cannabis grow site that is growing a quantity of plants not allowed under state law. The bill passed out of the House Agriculture, Land Use and Water Committee unanimously, 11-0. It now heads to the Ways and Means Committee
SB 1564 addresses the potential for moratoriums related to hemp. It provides that after a local government declares a state of emergency related to cannabis, the Oregon Department of Agriculture could subsequently stop issuing new grower licenses for hemp in that area. It specifies that the bill does not apply to research hemp grower licenses. SB 1564 passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee and now heads to the Senate floor.
HB 4074 is the ‘housekeeping’ or ‘technical fix’ bill for OLCC. It requires marijuana industry workers to report to the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) and law enforcement if the person has a reasonable belief that sex trafficking, human trafficking, or the prohibited employment of a minor is occurring on the licensed premises. It creates a human trafficking coordinator position within OLCC. It authorizes OLCC to allow a marijuana retailer mistakenly licensed to operate within 1,000 feet of a school to relocate without reapplying for a new license. The bill requires person working for an OLCC licensed laboratory, or participating in marijuana sampling or testing, to have a marijuana worker permit. It requires rebuttal testing to be done to prove that cannabis plant has acceptable concentration of THC done by OLCC staff in an OLCC facility. It appropriates an undetermined amount of money to an undetermined entity from the General Fund for the current biennium to support community-based organizations responding to the humanitarian crises associated with illegal marijuana operations. It removes sunset on the Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant Program administered by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. HB 4074 passed out of the House Economic Recovery and Prosperity Committee unanimously, 10-0, and now heads to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.
Thank you for getting through all of that, and for your support. You make Oregon a better place and are appreciated!