Oregon House Bill 2198 heads to Governor Kate Brown’s desk after passing the Senate 18 to 12 following the proposal sailing through the House 48 to 11. If signed by the governor, as expected, HB 2198 will establish the Oregon Cannabis Commission (OCC) and allow several thousand Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) growers to sell up to 20 pounds into the regulated and taxed adult-use market regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). A sincere thanks to Compassionate Oregon for leading the way on this bill. The coalition of activists that urged the Oregon Legislature to pass the bill included the Oregon SunGrown Growers Guild, the Oregon Cannabis Retailers Association, the Umpqua Cannabis Association, the Oregon Cannabis Business Council and New Approach Oregon (full disclosure, I serve as director).
The OMMP could certainly use a commission that can analyze scientific developments, advocate for the needs of patients and effectively inform the Oregon Legislature. The Oregon Cannabis Commission, among other things, is mandated to consider “factors that prevent access to cannabis for medical use,” “laws and rules that will facilitate access to medical use,” and the “impact of federal laws, regulations, and policies.” I, for one, am looking forward to advocating that the OCC take up the plight of patients battling poverty and working to establish a program that assists in the acquisition of medical cannabis, just as other medicines are covered by health plans.
Due to changes in laws and regulations, including the banning of OLCC licenses in many areas of the state, too many medical growers have been blocked out of the emerging commercial market that they helped build. While HB 2198 doesn’t solve all of the issues facing growers, as selling 20 pounds a year isn’t nearly enough, the bill does establish a necessary starting point for many medical growers. Most importantly, access to the OLCC market will provide compassionate growers with the ability to recoup costs and continue cultivating for their patients.
Oregon’s laws for non-patients have certainly improved in recent years, but the OMMP has suffered some setbacks, so it is so nice to see a bipartisan group of state legislators take an important step forward for cannabis patients and their medical providers. There is still much work to be done, but HB 2198 is establishing a good foundation for future positive reforms for Oregon’s medical system. Governor Brown should sign this sensible bill and medical cannabis advocates will need to organize and get to work to ensure that the OCC meets its mission to effectively help govern the OMMP and that still-needed reforms are passed sooner than later. Today, the Oregon medical cannabis community can celebrate a much-needed victory.