Keeping recreational and medical pot separate makes no sense: Editorial Agenda – OregonLive.com
Next year, anyone seeking and winning a license to sell recreational marijuana in Oregon will be barred from selling medical marijuana under the same roof. Conversely, anyone already holding a treasured medical marijuana license but wishing to sell recreational marijuana must surrender his or her medical license to do so.
What this means is that Oregon’s bold move to legalize recreational marijuana with the passage of Measure 91 will bring to Oregonians two distinct retail markets, with minor exception housed at separate addresses and regulated by separate state agencies. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will oversee the production, distribution and sale of recreational marijuana, while the Oregon Health Authority will manage the medical marijuana program.
So much for consumer convenience. So much for efficiency in public spending. So much for consistent tracking by state regulators, from seed to sale, of all marijuana. So much for containing the state’s bureaucracy.
The Legislature this year, in approving statutes to implement Measure 91, dodged melding the two marijuana markets into one. One-stop pot shopping seemed a difficult concept, representing perhaps too radical a shift, to bring about.
This was understandable. Oregon’s vanguard medical marijuana program, if bloated with more than 70,000 cardholders, has many clients whose specific needs are met by growers who custom-grow and blend products to meet those needs.
It was and by some remains feared that patients with special needs could be punished, either physically or financially, by reining in the medical marijuana program. From the time of Measure 91’s passage til recently an undercurrent against the “co-location” retail possibility was hard not to detect: that medical marijuana is not just weed but a hard-won substance of critical value to a subset of suffering Oregonians. Add to the list of those depending on medical marijuana, however, some growers whose crop yields had long gone untracked in a system that, in the eyes of Republican Sen. Ted Ferrioli among others, “leaked” weed to the illegal black market. Even so, medical marijuana dispensary owners across Oregon have this year overwhelmingly said they want to enter the recreational pot market, Democratic Rep. Ann Lininger told the editorial board of The Oregonian/OregonLive last week.
The Legislature will meet only for six weeks in 2016. But it should take the opportunity to rid this cumbersome duality by revising the law to allow co-location, or the sale of both recreational and medical marijuana under the same roof.
In such a scenario, recreational customers could have their full array of products while being denied those crafted for medical marijuana customers, and card-carrying medical marijuana customers could purchase items they do now from dispensaries as well as taxed recreational pot. Meanwhile, the OLCC’s cannabis tracking system, which will account for recreational marijuana from grow site to retail register, should be employed for like duty on any medical weed products produced, processed, distributed or sold alongside recreational pot. Provisions could be made, separately, to help any medical marijuana patients whose narrow needs might somehow be lost in the shuffle.
Co-location is inevitable. But will it take two or three years before Oregonians – and their elected representatives – recognize that two parallel pot systems are excessive, inconvenient and require too much money and too many people to regulate them? Adroit lawmakers would save everyone the trouble and act swiftly. To do so would simply make for good public policy.
Ferrioli last week asked the OLCC to report back to him on known or perceived impediments to co-location so that he and the Legislature could “demolish” them the 2016 session. Good. While he’s not the first lawmaker to wonder aloud how it is that co-location couldn’t be achieved, he showed uncanny timing: The remainder of 2015 offers the perfect moment to make known what must be done to put recreational and medical marijuana under the same roof. It’s that simple.