As the October 1st deadline for new cannabis testing regulations was bearing down upon the Oregon cannabis industry, a coalition of Oregon industry advocates sought a reprieve, warned legislators, policymakers and regulators about the damage the new requirements would cause to the industry. Not only were the new testing rules going to be expensive, but the lack of accredited labs was going to create a bottleneck in the supply chain, hurting businesses, patients and consumers. Yes, it is great that Oregon cannabis is “safer than food,” but too strict of standards was only going to hurt small businesses and push cannabis into the illegal market.
A joint statement that included, among others the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, the Oregon Cannabis Association, New Economy Consulting and New Approach Oregon, urged the state to delay the implementation of strict testing standards. Those that pay close attention to the Oregon cannabis scene know that these groups don’t always agree on every issue, so coalescing around a policy proposal signaled a serious matter was at hand.
The Oregon cannabis industry wasn’t completely unified on the delay, as several testing labs and the director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council (OCBC) urged the state to move forward with the strict lab standards. As The Oregonian reported, one lab staffer had the gall to compare the cannabis industry to the tobacco industry and Don Morse, director of the OCBC, and a local dispensary owner, argued against a delay:
“That is a playbook right out of big tobacco, like hey, you need to move the rules so we can continue our unregulated commerce of a potentially dangerous product,” said Anthony Smith, chief scientific officer of Evio Labs, a chain of marijuana testing labs.
Don Morse, owner of the Human Collective, a dispensary in Southwest Portland, said extending the deadline for the new rules on testing, packaging and labeling only postpones the start of the new market, which is supposed to begin rolling out in five days. Some businesses “waited too long to start complying” with the new rules, he said.
“Another delay is going to embolden the industry to procrastinate,” said Morse, a longtime industry activist. “The time has come where it is incumbent on us to step up and do what needs to be done, to launch the recreational system in a meaningful way.”
After seeing the impact of the new rules, OCBC director Don Morse, changed his tune with The Oregonian:
Morse has laid off five budtenders since last month. He’s down to about 10 percent of the concentrate inventory he had before October. He can’t find anyone to sell him enough marijuana to fully restock.
That’s happening in most of the more than 400 marijuana dispensaries around the state.
For Morse, the gridlock is ironic because he pushed for the rules. He helped convince growers and processors that reasonable pesticide limits and testing regulations would be better for them and consumers. But now the fledgling businesses are in jeopardy, he said.
Finally responding to the needs of the industry, the Oregon Health Authority just released new testing rules today. Hopefully, these new rules work for the industry and the relief hasn’t come too late for small businesses across the state. Never a dull moment in the Oregon cannabis industry, so stay tuned.