Oregon’s Top Marijuana Regulator Stepping Down and Moving On


When we first drafted Measure 91, Oregon’s marijuana legalization law, and put the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in charge of regulating the burgeoning cannabis industry, the OLCC was not helmed by a Republican district attorney. When Rob Patridge, the top prosecutor in Klamath County, was appointed OLCC Chair, I was honestly absolutely horrified. My experience, up until that point, was that Republican law enforcement officials were not allies to the cannabis community. I am glad that I was wrong about Rob Patridge and can admit that I am sad to see him resign as OLCC chair to take a private sector job. The Oregon Cannabis Connection was the first to publish a report that Patridge was likely to leaves public office in Oregon.

As I told the OLCC, when they reached out to me for a quote, I always found Patridge to be fair and I appreciated how I could always see where he was coming from as a regulator. He didn’t fall back on any Reefer Madness hysteria or stereotypes and always sought out the best evidence. I certainly didn’t always agree with Rob and we butted heads on numerous issues. I wish that he would have been more bold on numerous fronts, but Rob and I could always agree to disagree and battle out our differences at the Oregon Legislature or in rulemaking procedures. Under Patridge’s leadership, the OLCC sided with science and rejected the need to institute a per se marijuana DUII provision, a stance that will hopefully be followed across the nation.

The departure of Rob Patridge comes at a very crucial time for the Oregon cannabis industry as some legislators are floating the idea of merging commercial medical growers under the OLCC’s purview, at a time when we are getting some troubling signals from the Donald Trump Administration. While more work needs to be done, particularly to help low-income medical marijuana patients, small farmers and mom-and-pop shops, a strong majority of Oregonians favor marijuana legalization and the state has exceeded expectations in the number of jobs created and the amount of new tax revenue generated. The next OLCC chair has big shoes to fill and a lot of work to do, he or she will need to be able to hit the ground running.

Governor Kate Brown will need to appoint someone to replace Patridge that resides from Oregon’s most conservative congressional district. Hopefully, we’ll get a new marijuana regulator that was at least as fair and open-minded as Mr. Patridge.

Below is the press release from the OLCC announcing Rob Patridge’s resignation:

Oregon Liquor Control Commission Chair Rob Patridge Resigns

Championed Economic Development Opportunities for Oregon’s Alcohol Industry

Designed Licensing & Regulatory Framework for Recreational Marijuana Program

Portland, Oregon – Rob Patridge, Chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, today submitted his resignation to Oregon Governor Kate Brown. Patridge is leaving the OLCC to take a position doing public sector consulting with a private sector firm. Patridge’s resignation from the Commission is effective March 12, 2017.

Former Governor John Kitzhaber appointed Patridge to the OLCC in October, 2012 and appointed him Chair of the Commission in July, 2013.

“The opportunity to serve on, and lead the Commission during this dynamic time at the agency has been a highlight of my public service career,” said Patridge. “Because the OLCC has an extremely capable and professional staff we’ve been able to effectively and efficiently make changes that reflect the rapidly changing alcohol and cannabis markets.”

Patridge was instrumental in guiding the OLCC during a period of increased consumer interest in craft adult beverages, and translated that interest into policies and actions to re-invent the agency and its interaction with the community and the public.

During his tenure as Chair, the Commission advocated for more economic development opportunities for Oregon’s liquor license businesses. In 2015, the OLCC launched annual training for retail liquor store agents bringing in international experts to share the latest information on consumers’ distilled spirits preferences and best practices for improving the customer experience.

As a former Oregon State Representative, Patridge provided strong leadership skills to the Commission and created common ground for collaboration among legislators, licensees, and the public. In 2013 the OLCC brought together these stakeholders to better understand the rapid growth of Oregon distillers, showcase their stages of business development, and drive international visibility for Oregon’s leadership role in the craft alcohol industry.

“We’ve taken our responsibility as the third largest source of revenue for the state very seriously,” said Patridge, “and much of our time and focus has been on how to make the agency more effective, more innovative, and contribute more revenue to the state.”

Under his leadership, the agency embarked on its largest retail liquor expansion since Prohibition, increasing by eight percent the number of retail locations in Oregon that sell distilled spirits. The agency spent more than two years working with stakeholders, legislators, and the public on an approach to increase customer convenience and improve shopping satisfaction while maintaining public safety.

“The Distilled Spirits Council has had the pleasure of working with Rob during his tenure at the OLCC.  He has been a leader in marketplace modernization, an effective and open communicator and a friend to the distilled spirits consumer,” said Kraig R. Naasz, President & CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council.

After the November 2014 passage of Measure 91, which legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon, Patridge sharpened the OLCC’s focus to create a roundly supported system to regulate the cannabis industry. Measure 91 specified that the recreational use of marijuana be based on regulation and taxation determined by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

After Measure 91’s approval, Patridge led statewide “town hall” public meetings and other stakeholder engagement to formulate the framework for rulemaking to regulate the recreational marijuana industry. At the time, Oregon was the third state to approve adult use cannabis consumption.

“There was a lot skepticism about how the OLCC was going to regulate cannabis,” said Anthony Johnson, Executive Director, New Approach Oregon and co-author of Measure 91. “But Rob was always reasonable, and provided clear reasoning and a basis for his decision. There was never a surprise about his point of view and whether or not he would be fair.”

Patridge used his knowledge as a district attorney and former legislator to guide creation of a citizen rule making advisory committee that included members of the cannabis industry, public health and safety interests, and community organizations. Along with the OLCC’s executive leadership, Patridge worked with Oregon legislators during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions to modify Measure 91 into workable laws to better help the cannabis industry and regulators.

“Rob Patridge has been a great chair for the commission – he’s laid a solid foundation upon which we can continue our work of implementing the recreational marijuana program as well as retail expansion for liquor stores,” said Steve Marks, Executive Director of the OLCC. “Rob’s voice will be missed; however, I look forward to working with the new chair as we continue this important work. ”

Patridge grew up on a working cattle ranch in Eagle Point, Oregon and has served southern Oregon as a Deputy District Attorney, President of the Medford City Council, and for three terms as the State Representative from Medford where he was the House Majority Whip and Chaired the Public Safety Sub-Committee of Ways and Means.

He also served as the General Counsel for the Rogue Valley Manor/Pacific Retirement Services, president of a multi-state real estate development firm, as the General Counsel and District Director for U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, and as a private business consultant. Patridge is the married father of two teenage children.

Patridge, who also has served as Klamath County’s District Attorney since 2013 also will resign from that post.

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