What new pot laws might the state foist upon us?
BUCKLE UP, FRIEND. There could be several. The Oregon state legislature convenes next Wednesday, February 1, and its website contains a slough of pot law proposals (28 draft bills, by my count). Many of these will be revised, consolidated, or simply cast aside, but the legislature’s general thinking is now on display. Below are some highlights.
Veterans—SB 130 would waive medical marijuana card fees for veterans who have a “total disability rating of at least 50 percent” resulting from service, and who were discharged or released “under other than dishonorable conditions.” That’s a starting point, but it would be classier and less complicated to waive card fees for all the vets. Here’s hoping.
Administration—SB 300 would relieve the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) of its cannabis oversight and transfer that responsibility to an “Oregon Cannabis Commission.” Other bills, HB 2198 and 2200, would change the name of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to the “Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission,” and euthanize OHA. However it plays out, we will likely see weed administration further consolidated in Oregon, and likely under OLCC. That’s a good thing.
Hemp—HB 2372 would establish an Oregon Industrial Hemp Commission, and HB 2371 would create a program at Oregon State University to label and certify agricultural hemp seed. The industrial hemp program in Oregon is finally gaining traction; these would be good steps.
Research—HB 2197 would direct the OLCC to work with a nongovernmental entity that conducts or funds research on weed and cannabis-derived products. Public dissemination of all research findings would be required. This would be terrific: Because of federal law, the double blind testing normally conducted on medical products—which is the gold standard for FDA approvals—has been mostly inaccessible for pot. Let’s hope this one passes.
Energy Efficiency—HB 2205 would direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture to work with vendors to create efficiency standards for pot production. Once these standards were developed, a certification protocol would ensue. Seems like another good idea.
Property Tax Exemption—HB 2151 would grant a state property tax exemption for new equipment for processors of cannabinoid edibles (as well as for makers of booze). This would make a big difference for some pot processors statewide, when you consider the steep cost of some of this equipment.
Pot Lounges! Pot Events!—SB 307 would exempt cannabis lounges from the onerous provisions of the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act, so that we could have cannabis cafés, like Colorado does. The bill would also allow OLCC to grant temporary licenses to pot events, so we could see more events like the “Weed the People” party the Mercury hosted to celebrate legalization.
Crime and Punishment—SB 570 would create two new crimes, related to “administering a marijuana item to the body of a person who is under 18 years of age,” intentionally or knowingly. The maximum penalties are intimidating: 20 years’ imprisonment, $375,000 fine, or both. Do not give pot to kids.