Oregon liquor control officials on Wednesday presented a plan for allowing retailers to sell both medical and recreational marijuana — and it seemed to win support from key legislators.
Under the proposal, medical marijuana growers willing to accept strict regulatory controls would be able to sell to retailers serving both medical and recreational marijuana users.
However, there still does not appear to be any consensus on when retail sales of recreational marijuana will actually start.
Rob Patridge, chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, told legislators Wednesday that the state could run afoul of federal officials if they try to start sales before a strict “seed to sale” tracking system is in place. That will take until the last half of 2016, he said.
Several members of the House-Senate committee charged with implementing the marijuana legalization initiative approved by voters said they still want to start sales not long after possession becomes legal on July 1.
Even without strict controls in place, Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego and a co-chair of the committee, said it is still better to start bringing marijuana into the legal market even if it’s not clear it was all grown legally. Lininger and other legislators say they’re now looking seriously at whether they could start sales on Oct. 1.
In any case, marijuana advocates and people in the industry cheered the idea of providing one-stop shopping for both medical and recreational users.
“You would have the best of both worlds and not squeeze anybody out,” said Anthony Johnson, the chief sponsor of the marijuana legalization initiative approved last November by voters.
The proposal would allow the more than 200 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state to also consider serving the recreational market, something many of the dispensary owners have said they would like to do.
Legislators would have to make several legal changes to merge the medical and recreational marijuana systems. Patridge said he would present several amendments to House Bill 3400 — a measure legislators are working on to implement the recreational system — to accomplish just that.
Lawmakers seemed inclined to accept those changes. “This is what I hoped we would get to,” said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who has been a strong backer of legalizing marijuana.
At the same time, legislators continued to pepper Patridge with questions about starting sales earlier than he has anticipated. Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said it didn’t make any sense to legalize possession on July 1 but provide non-medical marijuana users no legal way to buy the drug.
“Isn’t that a direct contribution to incentivizing the black market?” asked Ferrioli. “What we’re really saying to Oregonians is keep accessing your black market supplier until sometime in the last half of 2016.”
Patridge countered that he was instead concerned that it could put the state at odds with the 2013 memo from Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole laying out how the Obama administration would enforce federal laws against marijuana after voters in Washington and Colorado legalized it.
Until the OLCC is ready to start retail sales, Patridge added, people can rely on homegrown marijuana. He also noted that the Legislature could move back the July 1 date when possession becomes legal, although he said, “I don’t think you would do that, politically or otherwise.”
Source: Oregon Live