Oregon legislators may take aim at medical cannabis regulator

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The Oregon regulatory agency whose testing procedures have been blamed for damaging the state’s medical cannabis industry is being targeted by state lawmakers.

Legislation proposed for the 2017 session would wrest some or all control of medical marijuana from the Oregon Health Authority, the Portland Business Journal reported.

When the state legislature convenes Feb. 1, it is likely to hear proposals that would:

  • Essentially disband the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to oversee the state’s medical cannabis industry.
  • Forbid the OHA from registering medical cannabis dispensaries as well as cultivation and processing sites.
  • Rename the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversee the state’s adult-use marijuana program, to the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission. The initiative also would add members of the retail cannabis industry to the commission.

The OHA came under fire in 2016 for its strict cannabis testing standards and dearth of labs, which led to barren shelves, declining revenue, potential layoffs and the likelihood of businesses closing. There also are concerns the industry’s problems might drive residents away from legal outlets to the black market.

The OHA has defended its testing policies, saying they are meant to detect unapproved pesticides that could jeopardize public safety.

Many Oregon MMJ dispensaries have become adult-use only outlets, and since Oct. 1 more than 100 dispensaries have abandoned registrations or withdrawn applications, according to the Portland Business Journal. The newspaper also reported that dispensaries now number 307 after having peaked at 425, and as of Friday the state had 174 recreational stores.