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Oregon adopts rules for retail marijuana

 

MILWAUKIE — Marijuana stores will be prohibited from selling both recreational and medical marijuana and pot cannot be used on site under preliminary regulations approved Thursday by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The more than 70 pages of rules will govern Oregon's retail marijuana system once it's fully operational next year. While marijuana stores began selling to adults 21 and older earlier this month, they are operating under temporary authority from the medical marijuana program. By 2017, companies producing or selling marijuana to the general population will have to abide by the OLCC's regulations for health, safety and security.

The adoption of rules is a critical step in creating the legal structure for retail marijuana. They must be in place for the state to begin accepting applications in January for licenses to operate marijuana businesses.

Most of the proposed rules were not controversial in an advisory committee of marijuana businesses, law enforcement and others that reviewed them.

But several of the proposals were hotly debated.

The commission's rules will limit the size of growing operations to 10,000 square feet indoors and 40,000 outdoors. The limits are designed to ensure there's enough marijuana for the legal market, but not too much. Staffers tried to estimate demand based on the experiences in Washington and Colorado, the other two states that allow sales to adults, but nobody knows how much will be needed.

“It's a really tough issue, and I don't think we have the data at this point” to pick a precise number, said Rob Patridge, the OLCC chairman.

The OLCC also has a prohibition on using marijuana in stores. Employees with medical cards can do so privately — alone and out of view — to treat a medical condition, but they can't be intoxicated.

The rules also require marijuana businesses to be owned in the majority by people who have lived in Oregon for more than two years. That's to comply with a law approved by the Legislature earlier this year, but key lawmakers from both parties have since said they'd like to reconsider the rule.

Critics of the residency requirements worry that they may encourage businesses to come up with convoluted legal maneuvers to get around them. They also worry it will limit access to legitimate investment at a time when the state is trying to shift marijuana sales from a robust black market to a regulated one.

“Our own thinking on these issues has evolved over time,” four lawmakers wrote to the commissioners in a letter date Oct. 9. “We now believe that broad residency requirements and significant limits on outside investment could do more harm than good.”

The OLCC's proposed rules also will allow marijuana deliveries. However, they'll be subject to such tough restrictions that the commissioners said it would be uneconomical for delivery to be a significant part of anyone's business. Delivery vehicles, for example, couldn't have more than $100 of marijuana at a time.

The rules are temporary and could undergo changes before the OLCC adopts permanent regulations next spring or summer. OLCC officials have said they expect licensed stores to open in fall 2016, but no specific timeline has been established.

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