Growing medical-grade cannabis is an extremely tough job. I cringe when I hear people say things such, “They call it weed, for a reason,” implying that cultivating cannabis is easy, like the plant “grows like a weed.” Oregon medical growers have been providing some of the best medicine in the world, and until recently, it was still illegal to make any profit from their labor. While medical growers are now able to earn legitimate revenue from their hard work, new regulations imposed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) provide hurdles that farmers must overcome. The Oregon SunGrown Growers Guild (OSGG) are an excellent resource for Beaver State cultivators, advocating for sensible regulations and safe access for patients.
The OSGG recently sent out an informational email to help growers that will be experiencing inspections by the OHA:
What to expect from an OHA Site Visit:
In an effort to inform and dispel rumors, we provide this information based-on two OSGG Board members’ recent inspections from the Oregon Health Authority. This is in no way to be construed as legal advice, or a guarantee of what may be asked-for at your site.There are currently two inspectors in Southern Oregon from the OHA. They will be doing site inspections for the next week or so. They are starting with the largest grows first, especially those that have been grandfathered. They anticipate being in the area until the middle of October, then heading back to Portland.Both inspections we know about went smoothly. The inspectors DO have authority to enter your property, with your permission. This is NOT the Sheriff or State Police with a Search Warrant by any means! They call from the locked gate or on their way to your site and ask for access to the property. They have been willing to reschedule to the next day for one grower who had medical appointments, and to later in the day for a grower that was unavailable when they called in the morning. They are not giving “advance notice” of any kind, though.
If you continually refuse to give them access, they can get an “Administrative Warrant” from the OHA and enter with law enforcement. They can also pull your cards and deny your ability to grow on the property if you refuse to allow inspections. So far we’ve seen no reason to be afraid of them, though.
When they arrive they ask if you would like them to “suit-up” (jump-suits/booties) to reduce the spread of contamination from other sites they have visited.
- Have your patient cards on-hand because they arrive with a master list of your patient and grower names.
- They have their list, and you read them the names of your current patients, and they cross-reference.
- Your cards need to be current, or in-process at the OHA.
- One Board member had a patient’s “Safety packet” and green Certified Mail receipt, but not the current Grower card, and they said they realize they are behind on issuing cards and that was fine.
- Another member had the renewal application for a patient without the Certified Mail receipt, which they also accepted.
- It was in-process and that’s what they wanted to see.
They explained that they want to see EACH PLANT LABELED with the:
- The grower’s card number
- the patient card number
- The grower’s name.
They said most sites they have visited have a code or map (with this information elsewhere) that is connected to a specific plant. They then cross-reference and refer to that “master list,” if that’s what you have.
They also said having each patient’s plants roped off separately with that information for the group was OK.A code or map is all that is legally required, but having each plant labeled will help expedite the inspection.Then they split-up and each do a walk-through the garden to COUNT PLANTS.
Obviously this has to be equal to or fewer than what you are Grandfathered for (if applicable) and what you have current Grower cards for.
They took a few pictures (not sure if this has to be allowed) and left. They stated that once plants are cut down and “no longer growing” they did not count toward the plant counts. They focused on the outdoor plants and cards at both sites we know about.
They did NOT ask for access to the house or living area and the DO NOT have the right to inspect inside your house.
They are expecting to have 7 people on inspection staff for next year, including 2 people dedicated to southern Oregon. This is the same staff that inspects OHA dispensaries and processors, and they expect to have most of their staff focusing on outdoor grows late September through early October of next year. For now there are two inspectors in the area, their names are Stephen Pfuhl and Christopher Westfall. They called one grower from the cell number [NUMBER REDACTED], and appear to be doing inspections from about 8 AM until sometime in the evening.
We encourage everyone to be courteous and respectful and have your paperwork and plant-tags in order. We have found the inspections to be low key and painless, and we expect the same for other growers in the area. When these inspectors report back OHA and State Legislators about SunGrowers, we want them to report that we are in compliance and are working to operate within the rules that have been laid out. There is a narrative that we are outlaws, and as invasive as the inspections are, they are a chance to demonstrate how false that narrative is.
From the board of OSGG, we wish you a successful and low-stress harvest.
I am a strong supporter of cannabis laws that improve upon the status quo of prohibition as ending the barbaric practice of jailing people for marijuana is the foundation of our legalization efforts. I am proud of the passage of Measure 91 in Oregon and the fact that thousands of people that have not been cited and arrested for cannabis thanks to legalization. In addition to important law enforcement reforms, legalization has created thousands of new jobs and generated millions in new tax revenue.
Cannabis legalization has brought new regulations to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), most problematic for patients and growers being a decrease in the number of plants allowed at grow sites. Additionally, online reporting and inspection requirements have been imposed on farmers, many of whom that are used to living off of the grid, let alone computer proficient. While there are regulatory obstacles to overcome, legalization provides many opportunities for the entire cannabis community.
Oregon will need to adapt policies to ensure that small farmers and mom-and-pop operations survive and thrive in the new market. Additionally, the state needs to establish a low-income program so patients in need can receive assistance to pay for their medical cannabis, be it through a new fund established by taxes and fees or eventually the Oregon Health Plan. Thankfully, there are organizations like the Oregon SunGrown Growers Guild providing a great resource for farmers and patients.