9 January 2017

The Portland Business Journal reports…

The Oregon Health Authority may soon lose its oversight of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries, if proposed legislation moves forward during the upcoming session.

OHA has regulated medical marijuana since 2014, while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has overseen the rollout of the recreational marijuana market since it was legalized by voters that same year.

One draft legislative concept calls for OHA to transfer its duties and powers under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act to a newly created Oregon Cannabis Commission. Another would prohibit OHA from registering marijuana grow sites, processing sites and dispensaries. And another would change the name of OLCC to the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission and would add commissioners from the cannabis retail industry.

Oregon’s attempts to create regulations hit a major snag this fall, as new tough new rules governing pesticide testing almost brought the industry to a standstill and may be fueling diversions to the black market.

“The impetus behind a cannabis commission is the multiple missteps evident during the transition period for legalization of recreational and the licensure of medical,” said Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, who serves as co-vice chair of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Legalization.

Bringing all marijuana regulation under one umbrella may also be the route to go, said Rep. Ann Lininger, a Lake Oswego Democrat and co-chair of the joint committee.

“There’s pretty broad consensus we can improve and streamline how we regulate cannabis to make it more efficient for everyone in the sector, including consumers,” Lininger said. “Exactly how that looks is something we have to talk through. No ideas are off the table.”

Oregon’s marijuana industry is very much in flux, with many dispensaries converting to retail-only sales. Since Oct. 1, 121 dispensaries have either surrendered their registration or withdrawn their applications.

The total number of dispensaries has dropped to 307, down from a peak of 425, said OHA spokesman Jonathan Modie. Retail-only shops numbered 174 as of Friday.

At the end of the day, Ferrioli said he expects about 30 dispensaries to continue in business. There is still a big need, he said, as medical marijuana cardholders are often in dire medical conditions — hospice patients, those who suffer from seizures, Hodgkins disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease. They don’t pay tax on the products and can obtain more potent products.