I heard people started applying for recreational pot licenses this week. So... how does that work?
ON JANUARY 4, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) opened its doors to applicants in Oregon's new recreational pot regime. People are applying to produce and process weed, and sell it via wholesale and retail. Some people are applying to do all of those things, from seed to sale. The window to apply is open indefinitely and there is no cap on the number of licenses that will be issued. Instead, the market will sort out the winners and losers.
The application process is fairly straightforward as far as these things go. Unlike, say, New York or Maryland or Minnesota or Hawaii, where my law firm has worked on (medical) marijuana license applications, Oregon does not require applicants to be vertically integrated and massively capitalized. Instead, the baseline requirements here are that applicants be 21 years of age, have a not-too-terrible personal history, and show that the pot business will be at least 51 percent Oregon owned.
That said, the OLCC does require an appreciable amount of business documentation. For example, you need to be able to show that your city or county zoning code allows your proposed activity. You need to trot out business and security plans and disclose where you got your money. Unfortunately, much of this information will be freely available to any nosy person requesting public records.
The application fee is $250, with the balance of the annual payment (close to $5,000) due after an applicant is approved and passes a walk-through inspection. While there is no deadline to apply, there are compelling reasons for some applicants to line up quickly. For example, a retail applicant may want to ensure that it is not boxed out by another retailer under local zoning code; or a producer applicant may want to ensure it has ample time to begin the growing cycle for sales next fall. Other applicants may feel the rush because they are currently sitting on unproductive assets.
The OLCC anticipates issuing the first producer and processor licenses in the second quarter of 2016, with retail licenses issuing in the third quarter. Sales should commence in the fourth quarter this year, at which point you and your friends will no longer have to visit a medical dispensary to buy weed. By October, the recreational marijuana program should be standing on its own two legs, and the medical program will recede to its separate track.
Note that everything I am telling you today is subject to change as soon as February, when the legislative session begins and our representatives, and then the OLCC, inevitably fuss with the pot laws some more. Still, you can apply for a license to run a recreational marijuana business in Oregon today, as long as you are willing to roll with the punches tomorrow.