The passage of Oregon’s Senate Bill 852 on May 15 is a proactive move by state lawmakers and gives the governor latitude to approve the export and import of marijuana items between states. This is a strong indication that the state is preparing for interstate commerce with other states where marijuana is legal. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 19-9. Its next stop is the state House.
The passage of SB 852 doesn’t mean Oregon is moving any cannabis beyond state lines, however. There’s a sticking point (or two) before interstate commerce can begin. One, either the federal laws are amended — or — two, the US Justice Department issues an opinion or drafts a memorandum, that indicates tolerance to interstate marijuana transfers. In a nutshell, if they indicate that they’ll tolerate the flow of cannabis commerce, it just means that the feds are standing on the sidelines, pretending not to notice, while entrepreneurial states (where marijuana is legal) conduct lucrative business.
“Oregon is a trailblazer, and this is another way that we can lead the nation regarding this relatively new legal industry,” Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D), the bill’s chief sponsor, said in a press release. “Several states have legalized cannabis and so this puts Oregon in a great position to enter into agreements with other states, if and when the day comes that interstate cannabis trade is allowed by federal law.”
The type of memo that the Justice Department issued during the Obama administration, (where the feds agreed to turn a blind eye to states that legalized cannabis) is the same kind of memo that can open the gates to interstate commerce. This could be a boon to states like Oregon, where an oversupply of marijuana produced in the state resulted in a massive inventory.
The glut of marijuana production in Oregon killed prices and negatively impacted growers. The passage of SB 852 applies to marijuana producers, wholesalers, and researchers. The bill indicates that state lawmakers are becoming more responsive to roadblocks that affect the profitability of the industry in Oregon.
Recent activity by legislators seems to imply that the state considers the future viability of the cannabis industry an important one. In April, Senate Bill 218B (a previous version on April 10 failed to get sufficient Senate support but passed after the Senate Committee on Rules adopted several amendments) passed the Senate April 22 and is in committee in the House. The bill would allow the OLCC to limit producer licenses issued in the state.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but today’s Senate vote is a major step forward for the future of Oregon’s cannabis industry — and in securing our position as the country’s leading cannabis exporter,” said Casey Houlihan, executive director of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, in a news release on May 15.
Tied to SB 852 are various regulatory stipulations relating to health, safety, and labeling standards. States bringing their cannabis into Oregon would have to meet the state’s stringent quality standards, and submit their products for testing to prove it. In other words, Oregon won’t be accepting any heavy metal infused marijuana.
Tracking requirements, possibly similar or identical to the transportation manifests currently required by the OLCC (Oregon’s marijuana governing authority) will most likely be regulated whenever product moves between in-state producers, wholesalers, and retailers.
In February, Gov. Kate Brown explained that she sees the bill as a way to position Oregon for legalized cannabis in the future. The sticking point remains issues related to banking, and she told reporters that the first priority should be ensuring that the cannabis industry has banking access.
“I think folks are trying to make sure that Oregon is well placed in terms of the industry if and when — I would say when — the federal government moves forward,” Brown said.