July 1 marks the third anniversary of the enactment of Measure 91, AKA why you can legally buy weed at your neighborhood dispensary. But we’ve also had the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) kicking around since 1998, and it’s been sad to watch it become the cannabis industry’s neglected older stepchild. I’ve been an OMMP caregiver for the past 10 years, and recommending and obtaining cannabis for medical patients is some of the most important work I’ve ever done.
When Oregon passed Measure 91, we were assured there would not be any changes to the OMMP. Instead, there have been lots, and some of the biggest ones are in the process of being activated. The most significant is that most OMMP growers now need to become part of METRC, Oregon’s cannabis tracking system (CTS). It’s what all facets of the recreational industry use for their “seed-to-sale” tracking.
“I love using METRC!” said no one, anyplace, ever. As I have witnessed attempts to navigate METRC literally make grown men weep, this will be... interesting.
Beginning in April 2016, OMMP growers had to pay an annual $200 “grow site registration” fee. Under the new rules, a grow site that services three or more patients must designate someone as the “grow site administrator,” who registers with the CTS and pays the annual $480 user fee.
Growers also need to account for everything they are growing, per the OMMP: “Prior to entering start-up inventory, CTS requires that an ‘item category’ or ‘strain’ be created for each item that will be in the inventory.” Growers then need to take an inventory of everything they have, including “seeds, clones, plants in any growth stage, harvested plants, usable marijuana (flower and trim), and cannabinoid items of any kind.” The grower will need to buy plant tags ($0.45 each) to affix to each and every cannabis plant through harvest, as well as package tags ($0.25 each) for every package of leaf, trim, bud from that plant. They’ll also need to buy a commercial scale and get it licensed, the fee for which ranges from $300 to $800.
Per the OMMP, “CTS users are responsible for reconciling on-site and in-transit cannabis inventory by no later than the close of each business day. This means at the beginning of each day of operation, inventory recorded in CTS should be 100 percent accurate, with adjustments recorded as needed to account for waste, loss, previous entry errors, or other inventory variances.” Yes, that’s 100 percent accurate, every day, with zero room for error. No problem.
Growers who want to destroy plants will need to file a “Marijuana Item Destruction Request” form as well as fill out a “Destruction and Disposal of Marijuana Plan.” The process could be as simple as grinding the plants up and placing them into your compost pile, or you might need to take them to a “Landfill, Transfer Station, or Incinerator.” To keep growers honest, OMMP “will make every effort to have staff directly witness and document destruction at the registrant’s premises and to be available to witness offsite disposal.... [If] staff are not available to witness destruction, the registrant will be required to make the marijuana items undesirable, unusable, and unrecognizable... then secure and hold the destroyed marijuana material for three days during which time OMMP staff may arrive to confirm destruction.” Awesome.
There is a bright spot. Once all medical growers have switched over to the METRC system—which needs to happen by July 1—eligible grow sites will be able to sell 20 pounds each year to a cannabis processor, which can make dabs, edibles, vape cartridges, and so on, or to a wholesaler, which can then sell the weed to a dispensary. So they got that goin’ for them, which is nice.
All these steps are being implemented as a way to ensure every bit of OMMP cannabis is accounted for—and that it stays within our state’s borders so as not to upset the feds. But the cost and effort now required to produce cannabis for patients who are too ill or otherwise unable to grow their own will likely motivate more growers to leave the OMMP, which has already seen its numbers in steep decline: In January 2015, there were 46,601 OMMP growers, but in January 2018, that number went down to 25,615.
All this red tape is yet another reason that every medical and recreational user should support rescheduling—or better yet, descheduling—of cannabis on the federal level.