William Hill, Andreas Met and Hunter Neubauer
Hill is founder of Williams Wonder Farms in Grants Pass. Met is founder of Halo Labs in Medford. Neubauer is co-founder of Oregrown Industries in Bend. All three are members of the Oregon Business Collective, a coalition of cannabis entities.
Nearly six years ago, Oregon voters took an ambitious step to legalize recreational marijuana.
It took a few years to get the ball rolling, but by 2017, a robust and healthy new industry had been established. Today, that industry is thriving with hundreds of small businesses that employ close to 7,000 people meeting the needs of Oregonians all over the state. In 2019, cannabis sales generated more than $102 million for the state — money that goes to schools, police, health care, cities and counties. For the 2021-2023 biennium, that number is expected to rise to more than $300 million.
But there is a challenge.
Nearly six years in, Oregon’s cannabis industry has moved beyond the startup phase. The rules and regulations that govern the industry and help protect Oregonians need to evolve along with it to ensure that it can thrive in a safe and responsible way.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the state agency charged with regulating cannabis in Oregon, has been a collaborative partner and a leader in policymaking around cannabis. Our coalition of cannabis entities, the Oregon Business Collective, is advocating for minor adjustments that would better fit the needs of the industry while maintaining strong protections for consumers, workers and the environment.
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As it stands, a cannabis business that is cited for multiple minor violations, such as failure to maintain accurate video camera records, could potentially lose its license.
Would that violation lead to a fine? A suspension? Some other form of enforcement action? And when would all that happen? It’s often hard to know. That uncertainty can be extremely detrimental to businesses, especially those looking to expand, hire more workers or make significant capital investments.
With input — and support — from OLCC and other state officials, our coalition is advocating for a “safe harbor” provision that would offer a defined period of time for businesses to address minor violations. Such a provision would eliminate uncertainty for Oregon cannabis businesses, allow OLCC to focus on what matters most and support owners, operators and workers in Oregon’s cannabis industry.
We strongly support this legislation. We also strongly support the regulation of Oregon’s cannabis industry. But like the industry itself, it’s time for the rules that govern it to evolve so that the cannabis industry in Oregon can continue to flourish. This will continue to benefit all Oregonians with more businesses, more jobs and more tax revenue for the future.