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What Are the Cannabis Licensing Requirements in Oregon? (February 2024)

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Oregon boasts a progressive approach to marijuana, with both adult-use and medical cannabis legalized within the state. In 1998, Oregon paved the way for medical marijuana with the passage of Measure 67, the Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA). This pivotal legislation allowed individuals with specific medical conditions to cultivate, possess, and use marijuana, provided they had a doctor's recommendation and adhered to OMMA regulations.

In 2014, Oregon took a historic step by enacting the Adult and Medical Use of Cannabis Act, which extended legalization to adult-use marijuana. This landmark act granted adults aged 21 and older the right to possess, use, and cultivate marijuana, further solidifying Oregon's reputation as a cannabis-friendly state.

Licensing Requirements

In Oregon, cannabis licensing is a multifaceted landscape, distinctively divided between medical and adult-use recreational cannabis. This division is marked by separate governing bodies overseeing each sector: the Oregon Health Authority's Public Health Division manages the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) for medical cannabis, while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) regulates adult-use and recreational marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Licensing

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) plays a pivotal role in facilitating access to medical cannabis for patients and caregivers. Under its purview, patients and caregivers can legally cultivate and distribute cannabis within the program's stringent guidelines. Applying for a medical marijuana dispensary license is relatively cost-effective at $3,500, coupled with a $500 non-refundable application fee.

However, acquiring this license demands meticulous attention to detail. Applicants must provide comprehensive information about the proposed location's zoning compliance and ensure a minimum 1,000-foot distance from educational institutions. The OMMP also stipulates specific cultivation allowances for medical use, leading to a close-knit network of patient-caregiver relationships. Transfers of cannabis products between caregivers and dispensaries are subject to OMMP approval, while growers can directly supply dispensaries with the appropriate documentation. This structure fosters the possibility of smaller-scale medical marijuana and specialty businesses.

Recreational Marijuana Licensing

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) oversees the realm of recreational and adult-use cannabis licensing, and as of August 2020, the state boasts a total of 2,259 active marijuana business licenses. These licenses encompass a diverse array of roles, including 1,146 producers, 246 processors, 172 wholesalers, 21 laboratories, 673 retailers, and one research license.

The application process for recreational marijuana licenses significantly differs from the medical counterpart. Applicants are required to disclose any individual or legal entity holding or controlling an interest of ten percent (10%) or more in a recreational marijuana business. Extensive financial interests must be transparently documented during the application process. Although the licensing system allows changes in financial interest post-license acquisition, any increase surpassing 51% necessitates changes in ownership and additional licensing requisites.

Hemp Licensing in Oregon

Hemp, distinct from medical and adult-use cannabis, has been subject to separate regulations under the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) since 2015. In early 2020, concerns arose regarding the limited availability of labs to meet federally mandated testing standards for hemp. For the 2020 growing season, hemp businesses continued to operate under the state's existing rules, as outlined on the ODA website.

Recent Developments

Oregon's commitment to progressive cannabis policies remains evident with recent legislative actions. On March 3, 2022, the Oregon State Legislature passed SB 1579, known as the Oregon Equity Investment Act. This legislation established a fund financed by ongoing cannabis tax revenue, aimed at providing grants to community-based organizations. These grants support entrepreneurship, workforce development, and pathways to homeownership, with a focus on fostering equity in the cannabis industry.

Another notable development is SB 408, signed into law on June 29, 2022. SB 408 introduced restrictions on when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) can delay the processing, approval, or denial of license applications. It also facilitates the transfer of specific marijuana products between producers and processors, particularly those with common ownership.

SB 408 further mandates the adoption of rules that promote marijuana plant diversity, allowing qualified producers to obtain seeds from any source within the state. The bill simplifies tracking document requirements for deliveries, increases edible concentration limits to align with other states, and empowers regulators to establish higher purchase limits. Additionally, the OLCC is tasked with identifying ways to reduce plastic use in the cannabis industry and must report its findings to the state legislature by December 31, 2022.

Promoting Equity

Oregon's progressive stance on cannabis extends to equity initiatives. The Act directs more tax revenue into social equity programs, introducing Equity Licenses tailored to support Black, Indigenous, and Latinx cannabis entrepreneurs. Equity Licenses provide institutional backing, funding, and technical assistance, along with an expedited licensure process and fee reductions. Additionally, two expanded license categories will be reserved for equity licenses for a decade.

Regulatory Updates

Oregon's commitment to cannabis regulation is reflected in several key measures. In response to concerns, the OLCC implemented new regulations effective from January 1, 2022, with some extending into 2023.

One significant rule limits the sale of hemp edible products in the general market to 2 mg of THC per serving and up to 20 mg of THC per container, effective July 1, 2022. This measure ensures that hemp products with higher THC concentrations do not intermingle with general market items. Home delivery of cannabis, permitted across city and county lines, is now possible with local authorities' approval.

Starting from January 1, 2022, consumers can purchase up to two ounces of marijuana, reflecting evolving market demands. Furthermore, edible concentration limits have increased from 50 mg to 100 mg of THC per package as of April 1, 2022.

Conclusion

Oregon continues to lead the way in progressive cannabis legislation, embracing both medical and adult-use marijuana. Recent legislative actions, such as SB 1579 and SB 408, underscore the state's commitment to equity, environmental responsibility, and effective regulation within the cannabis industry. Understanding Oregon's evolving cannabis landscape is essential for entrepreneurs and enthusiasts looking to participate in this dynamic sector.

 

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.


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