Ryan Alexander-Tanner

IS IT REALLY a felony to process weed extracts in Oregon?

FOR THE MONTH of March, the answer was yes. In fact, when I sat down to write this column on March 23, things looked bad for the foreseeable future. Then suddenly, the clouds parted and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced a workaround, where the total ban on processing extracts would lift on April 1. This was big news indeed.

Under a very new law, House Bill 4014, unlicensed processing of weed extracts became a Class B felony as of March 1. In response—and because OHA had not yet begun to license processors—the agency decreed that dispensaries could sell off their existing inventory, but not stock anything new. Shelves emptied quickly, because the cutoff date for restocking was March 1.

An Oregon Class B felony carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, and a max fine of $250,000. So if you are processing oil, shatter, or wax, you should stop that until April 1. On that day, if you come up with the $500 down payment to apply for a medical processing license with OHA, you may proceed. This is very good news, because previously the state explained that no processing could occur until applicants were actually licensed. In fact, OHA had leveled with everyone and advised that acquiring a license would take "at least a few months."

Was the legislature trying to single out extracts in particular? Definitely. Under the old rules, processing marijuana in the medical program was allowed on a small scale and there was no specific language targeting extracts. There were also no "licenses" for medical processors. The new felony tag was added to prevent episodes of butane hash oil (BHO) explosion, like one earlier this month in Parkrose, which occurred in house with an infant, and an episode in Gresham a few years back involving a fireball fatality.

Eventually, everyone is going to be able to buy extracts—which will be made non-feloniously and with strict safeguards—alongside other processed weed like edibles, topicals, and concentrates. In fact, another new law, Senate Bill 1511, allows edibles and such to be sold in the "early start" program. So as soon as OHA writes yet another set of rules, edibles, topicals, and concentrates will hit the shelves for all.

This bump in the road with extracts caused some serious headaches, including employee layoffs. We pot lawyers had been telling our processor clients to pivot to mechanically processed concentrates during this bridge period, if possible. As to medical marijuana patients who had been relying on BHO and CO2 oil over the past few years, our clients were telling them: sorry.

Thanks to the Oregon Cannabis Association, some key legislators, and a generous reading of ORS 475B.475 ("exemptions from criminal liability"), it seems we have turned the corner. If you want to make extracts, pony up the $500 and log onto the OHA website on April 1.

Send your cannabis legal questions to vince@harrismoure.com.