The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission approved new hemp and cannabis regulations. The new legislation attempts to balance consumer safety and business interests while combating the illicit marijuana market – an October OLCC report showed that 54% of southern Oregon hemp farms were illegally producing THC-rich cannabis.
Most of the new regulations go into effect on January 1, 2022.
The OLCC said it had worked with legal cannabis industry operators to develop the new regulations in a press release. While accommodating consumer, business, and public health concerns, OLCC executive director Steve Marks, said it was essential to close “loopholes in the Federal Farm Bill of 2018, and the illicit farm production taking place in Oregon.” Most of the new rules take effect on January 1, 2022; other regulations won’t come until 2023.
The new rules include:
The State Legislature also approved two bills as part of a special legislative session intended to address issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. One measure funds enforcement efforts against illicit cannabis farms. The other regulation bolsters existing law enforcement capabilities concerning humanitarian aid for migrant workers exploited by illegal marijuana growers.
“Illegal cannabis operations in southern Oregon have been using our limited water supply, abusing local workers, threatening neighbors, and negatively impacting businesses run by legal marijuana growers,” said state Sen. Jeff Golden.
Recently, Rep. Pam Marsh, Rep. Lily Morgan, and Sen. Golden co-wrote and delivered a letter to Gov. Kate Brown expressing concerns that workers on illegal farms are deprived of promised wages and subjected to “conditions approaching slavery.”
One farmworker told of 12-hour shifts tending plants and sleeping in a tent only to have his employees skip town on payday. In the U.S., on a tourist visa, the worker didn’t notify authorities because of concerns over federal immigration laws. Another worker returned to the farm for the wages and had a gun pointed at him.
Last December, Oregon lawmakers set aside $25 million to crack down on illegal marijuana grow operations. The funding sets aside $20 million for the state’s Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant Program and $5 million for the state Water Resources Department to combat water theft.
OLCC Commissioner Matt Maletis concedes the new rules won’t satisfy everyone but views them as “a pathway” that goes a long way toward solving a lot of the cannabis-related issues currently facing the state.