July 1 marked the transition in the marijuana industry in Oregon from medical use only to legalization for all Oregonians 21 and over. However, while it is legal to have and to use cannabis, there is yet no place to legally buy it yet.
Oct. 1 will be the next milestone for marijuana legislation, when the law will change to allow medical dispensaries to sell cannabis to anyone of legal age.
Public health officials are working hard to construct new rules for the cannabis retail market. Steve Wagner, administrator of the Center for Health Protection within the Public Health Division, said,
“It is a super rapid timeframe with lots of things to get into place.”
The narrow window has led the Oregon Health Authority to write a set of temporary rules. The provisional regulations will provide a structure for consumers to buy up to one-quarter ounce of leaves or flowers, plants that are not in flower, and seeds from medical dispensaries.
The reason for the stopgap measures is that retail outlets for cannabis may not receive licensing until the end of 2016. Officials will pursue ways for the public to offer comment regarding regulations. However, Oregon law does not require public input for temporary rules.
Officials are busy drafting permanent regulations as well, many of which address standards for laboratory testing facilities, dosages and labeling. Residency requirements sit high on the agenda. New residency requirements for medical cannabis operations go into effect March 2016. It is currently legal for out-of-state residents to be issued medical marijuana cards from Oregon. With the new rules, Oregon residency will be mandatory.
The Public Health Division has budgeted to hire more than two dozen people to manage the business of pulling together a working structure for retail sales and other cannabis-related concerns. The process is estimated to cost $4.8 million over a two-year span, with revenue from the cannabis industry paying the bill.
Wagner stressed the importance of actually helping businesses meet and follow legal standards of operation. He said,
“Merely doing an enforcement action doesn’t help to correct.”
He added that the state plans to continually assess businesses for compliance and will retain the power to revoke licenses when business operators disregard the law. The goal, however, is to build a system wherein cannabis-based businesses are supported in their efforts to comply with regulations.