OCA Session Report 2022

To the Oregon Cannabis Association,

 

Thank you for the honor and opportunity to serve as your advocate in Salem!  The 2022 

Legislative Assembly concluded last week, and I’m happy to share that each of our pre-session policy objectives have been obtained.  Of equal importance for the long term cause of cannabis, we did everything the right way.  We emerge from this session with heightened legislative and political influence, strong relationships with legislators in both parties from all over Oregon, gratitude for the great work of our industry partners and other stakeholders, and big plans for the future.  

 

Here is a quick summary of OCA Session Goals that have been accomplished:

 

  • Put in place temporary moratoriums on issuing new license types (except labs)

 

  • Stop proposals to allow local governments to increase the cannabis tax

 

  • Promote equity in all that we do

 

  • Get the state of Oregon to prepare for federal legalization, from an economic development standpoint of examining how to grow our industry as compared to the existing regulatory mindset of how to punish it

 

Before going into details about the bills, I think it is important to acknowledge that we are all part of a larger cause—to protect and promote this plant in the face of stubborn societal opposition that, while getting better and better every day, is still very prominent among elected officials and the many communities they serve.  My approach will always be that we should respect those who don’t see the world through our eyes, and certainly that we will respect elected leaders, if only because of the fact that each of them received more votes from real people than anyone who ran against them.  We stand for our principals and for our members, without compromise.  And we also work to continually improve our reputation while educating decision makers without prejudice.  I believe in this approach because it is the right thing to do, but also because I believe it is the only way to bridge divides so that cannabis industry leaders are viewed more like those of other industries and less like criminals. 

 

HB 4016 Moratoriums on all new license types, except labs.  PASSED.

The primary provisions of this bill maintained near unanimous support from start to finish, and ultimately passed overwhelmingly (56-1 in the House, 24-3 in the Senate).   OLCC will not be issuing new licenses for applications that they received starting January 1, 2022.  This moratorium will end on March 31, 2024.  The bill allows OLCC to create a program allowing them to reissue licenses that have expired, been relinquished, or otherwise suspended.  Behind the scenes, we are very confident that equity applicants will benefit from this new reissuing of expired, relinquished, or otherwise suspended licenses.  Our industry partners and lobbying alliance deserve tremendous credit and appreciation.  Way to go Team!

 

SB 1506 Allow Local Governments To Increase Cannabis Tax: NOT PASSED

You may recall this same proposal from the 2021 Session.  The great news is that, just like in 2021, this idea did not become law.  The concerning news is that, just like in 2021, this idea was alive and kicking behind the scenes, right up until the session’s final hours.  Much like Frankenstein, this is not an idea that’s really dead.  It’s not going away, and we should expect the need for continued political engagement on this subject throughout this year and into the next legislative session in 2023.  

 

Thank you to each of you who engaged with legislators this session!  Your emails, phone calls, and testimony in the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee were important.  That was a Committee comprised of a majority of Senators who support raising the cannabis tax.  It was a tough draw for us.  Yet, together with our industry partners, we were able to educate new Senators and ensure that this idea did not have the support of a Majority of the Senate.   You may remember that Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) accepted the invitation to speak at the OCA Membership meeting on the dawn of the session’s first day.  At his address and after pouring through voluminous briefing materials, he revealed that he’d had a change of heart on this issue from last session.  He realized the importance of keeping cannabis revenues within our licensed, legal operators rather than fueling the unregulated market.  Along with many of his colleagues in the Senate Democratic caucus, he held strong for us in 2022. 

 

SB 1579 Advancing Equity in Oregon

I want to take a moment to throw a huge thank you and congratulations to many OCA members and our industry partners for the passage of this landmark bill.  The final version did not contain reference to the inequalities of drug war enforcement, nor to cannabis.  It did contain $15M for grants for a new Economic Equity Investment Program, to be administered by the Oregon Business Development Department.   That’s a big number and it’s inspiring to think about how much good can come from the tireless efforts of those who’ve been leading this fight for so long.   

 

HB 5202 (from HB 4048: Emerging Sector Bill):  Oregon to Prepare for Interstate Commerce and Federal Decriminalization:  PASSED

With the passage of HB 5202, the Legislature officially recognized the cannabis industry as an “Emerging Sector” and directed the Oregon Business Development (‘Business Oregon’) to conduct a comprehensive market analysis on our behalf.  The analysis will include a thorough quantification of the direct and indirect economic impacts of the cannabis sector in Oregon, very helpful baseline data.  It will also be prospective—identifying policy recommendations and proposed actions Oregon could take to facilitate the growth of the cannabis industry in the years ahead.  And it takes what I believe is an unprecedented state in directing the state economic development agency to examine what Oregon must do to capitalize on our strengths when interstate commerce and/or federal legalization becomes a reality. 

The Oregon legislature committed $150,000 to pay for this study and analysis, and directed Business Oregon to submit its report back to legislative committees by March 15th, 2022. 

OCA and our entire industry now have a tremendous opportunity in 2022 to engage with our members and the good folks at Business Oregon.  We need to ensure that our members and the state’s leading economists are working closely and collaboratively together, as they conduct this study and analysis.  We want the report to accurately assess the entirety of the cannabis sector.  We want the report to reflect thoughtful approaches and possibilities for regulatory changes, both large and small, that must be enacted as soon as possible.  And we want the report to help Oregon lawmakers understand what needs to happen in both the medium and long term, to grow our industry instead of punishing it.  

 

HB 4061 to Address Water Theft and Delivery to Unlicensed Cannabis Grow Sites: PASSED

We heard a lot this session about the horrors of cartel influence and illicit activity in Southern Oregon.  Legislators shared with me stories of dead bodies, human trafficking, sexual abuse, and theft of water.  This bill, only dealing with the water piece, is one of several efforts by the state of Oregon to respond.  It gives the Oregon Water Resources Department some additional enforcement tools and requires additional reporting from water hauling services and those who accept water from water hauling services.  Delivering water to an illegal grow is now a big no-no, with criminal punishment.  Similarly, lying to law enforcement about water or delivery of water to an illegal grow is also a big no-no.  If you purchase water from a water supplier, you may now be required to keep some additional records for a year.  There will be rulemaking in 2022 to plug in the details.  State agencies and departments are required to send out alerts as to any changes from this law to any potentially interested persons.  

 

SB 1564:  Limited Hemp Producer Moratoriums, Oregon Department of Agriculture discretion: PASSED

This bill establishes a process to allow for hemp producer moratoriums to be implemented in limited areas.  First a local government must declare an emergency within its jurisdiction.  Second, the local government can then apply to the Oregon Department of Agriculture asking for a moratorium on issuing new hemp production licenses for that area.  Third, ODA can issue that moratorium to cover the area where the emergency has been declared to exist.  Finally, the moratorium must be renewed each year.   The moratoriums on hemp production licenses could apply to new applications that arrived starting on Jan. 1, 2022. 

 

HB 4074 – Cannabis employees to alert law enforcement about sex trafficking, human trafficking, and the employment of minors:  PASSED

This bill puts into place the same standards that currently apply to liquor licensees, which is that an employee has a responsibility to act as a reasonable person would act in the event that they encounter sex trafficking, human trafficking, or the employment of minors.  

 

Thank you again Everyone!   Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can answer questions of be of service in any way.

 

Best wishes,

Jonathan Manton, Advocate

Oregon Cannabis Association

manton@sawneeservices.org