New Oregon recreational marijuana applicants must wait a year-plus for approval

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New applicants seeking entry into Oregon’s recreational marijuana market are going to have to wait at least a year before getting licenses, according to the state’s cannabis czar.

The delays could prove costly for new applicants who’ve already rented facilities in anticipation of getting a business license.

Steve Marks, executive director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which regulates the state’s marijuana industry, issued a letter Aug. 30 addressed to the state’s recreational cannabis business owners.

In the letter, Marks wrote that the state received a flood of new applications ahead of a June 15 moratorium on new licenses. In May, the state said it would temporarily halt accepting any new licenses for rec businesses.

The 2,210 new business applications received by June 15 are expected to take a year or more to process. It could take longer for anyone who submitted an application immediately before the cutoff.

According to Marks, his agency has assigned two workers to handle the approvals. Retail, wholesale and processing licenses will have priority, given that those permit types can be processed more quickly than producer applications.

Marks also noted the agency has assigned 11 investigators to process the backlog of license renewals. He estimated that renewals for 2017 and 2018 will take about a year. Processing changes to business structures and ownership will take 3-6 months, depending on the complexity of the changes and the number of alterations.

Marks also wrote that the OLCC intends to ask the state Legislature for additional staff to help with the licensing workload and to assist with compliance and enforcement activity.

The Statesmen Journal of Salem reported that the OLCC plans to ask lawmakers for up to $7 million in recreational cannabis taxes per biennium to help track medical marijuana.

The Associated Press also reported that the state’s new harvest notification policy takes effect Saturday. Marijuana producers are required to notify the state before harvest so regulators can monitor for any diversion out of the licensed market.