Oregon races to finalize rules for marijuana, issue licenses

Via the Associated Press: 

After months of public hearings with pot growers, lawmen, public health officials and others, an Oregon commission is racing to finalize recreational marijuana regulations and issue licenses to hundreds of businesses within a few months.

But those who aim to produce souped-up coffee and other niche products might have to wait a bit longer.

“It’s like the circus around here,” Oregon Liquor Control Commission Chair Rob Patridge said after a hearing in which a pot advocate and a panel member argued about whether marijuana is safer than alcohol, and an entrepreneur discussed selling marijuana-infused java, eliciting blank looks from commissioners.

The commission has been grappling with its massive task, issues that Colorado and Washington state previously dealt with, including the number of licenses initially offered. Besides Oregon, Alaska also legalized pot in 2014.

Oregon decided to do some things differently, including:

  • Setting a lower tax rate than Washington’s 37 percent and Colorado’s rate of upward of 29 percent. A pot advocate who helped write Oregon’s legalization measure said this allows for the regulated businesses to effectively compete with the illegal market by not driving their prices too high.
  • Avoiding caps on the number of licenses, so “we can let capitalism work it out, like we do with bars and breweries with no cap,” Anthony Johnson said.

The OLCC has had to deal with changes mandated by the legislature and requests from numerous interests as it establishes the regulations.

“We’re trying to accommodate everybody, but you’ve got to realize that people are throwing a new business model at us every day … like coffee, like ice cream, like yogurt, like marijuana tasting bars,” Patridge said. At some point, “we have to stop, get the rules in place” and then assess it again