A Look Into 2017 Oregon Marijuana Legislation

Oregon Cannabis Grower

The American west coast, it turns out, is in a position to define a path forward for the global marijuana industry. As the largest population size within a region who have all voted — and passed — ballot measures allowing for cultivation, sales, possession, and use of cannabis, the developing industry is going to be subject to bouts of scrutiny, review, scorn, jealousy, and curiosity on an international scale. In line with the careful, yet evolving methodology influencing the cannabis industry, as well as Justice department guidelines, 2017 has brought some new and shiny marijuana legislation to Oregon, giving us a look into how the state plans to continue the administration of the cannabis industry while protecting public health and safety.

So far, 2017 has brought two interesting and exciting pieces of legislation to the state marijuana industry: Hemp-infused alcohol and Senate Bill 301.

Hemp-Infused Alcohol Beverages are Allowed (under some conditions)

Oregon state seal - oregon marijuana legislationThe first look into Oregon marijuana legislation comes from a news brief released February 6th, 2017. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) handed down the decision that hemp-infused alcohol is A-okay under certain conditions, a product that was previously prohibited. While the DEA continues to view cannabis as a schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, January 13th, 2017 brought clarity to the American understanding of definitions provided in the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961).

Unfortunately, the designation of cannabis as a plant remains schedule I per the CSA, but under the expanded definition, extracts of cannabis (including CBD) are able to regarded separately within the Single Convention. This allows the federal government a bit of diplomatic wiggle-room in advancing cannabinoid research, but, again, under federal law cannabinoids remain prohibited. In not so many words: it’s controlled, but less strictly than THC-containing products.

As you can imagine, THC is required to be absent in any hemp-infused alcohol as well. The OLCC designates the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau as the governmental body tasked with approving beverage formulas. Here is the definition of hemp accepted (as of 2016) within Oregon legislation, adopted by the state in response to two Federal rulings:

Hemp:

  • (a) non-seed parts of the species cannabis, alive & growing or cut & cured, which contain no more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight on average across the entire crop
  • (b) means cannabis seeds of any varietal that is part of a growing crop or will be used in future grows
  • (c) hemp seed to be hulled for agriculture or processing as agricultural hemp seed
  • (d) processing of hemp seed that renders the seed incapable of germinating

These rules do not apply to products such as hemp rolling papers, hemp t-shirts, hemp paper, or, in general, industrial hemp commodities.

April 3rd, 2000 TTC Ruling on Hemp

In spring 2000, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TCC) released their decision on alcohol beverages that use hemp components, ruling that producers of hemp-infused alcoholic beverages must submit the following additional information when submitting their formula and procedure:

  • Lab analysis of seeds and/or hemp components to be used in the manufacture of the alcoholic beverages
  • Report must communicate how much THC, if any, was detected and at what level
  • A detailed description of how the lab analyzed the sample for THC
  • There can be no controlled substances within the final product
  • Labels must not describe the product as psychoactive, nor shall the use of depictions, slang, graphics, designs, or label statements imply the presence of hemp, except when it is stated as a declaration of ingredients
  • The product must be tested by a U.S. lab for controlled substances each time any is imported

Additionally, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 seems to be a federal prequel, elucidating the same 0.3 percent THC by dry weight component present in the rule adopted by Oregon legislators on the definition of hemp.

As is, the new ruling would allow alcoholic beverage producers to incorporate hemp within their products as long as the TCC approves the formula, a process that incorporates the “industrial hemp” definition and the 2000 ruling. Predating the ruling, a Portland brewery had released a CBD brew, attributing the floral flavors to terpenes that are present in both hemp and hops and, in so doing, has taken the first steps in the social experiment of cannabinoids and alcohol.

Senate Bill 301

The second and final piece of Oregon marijuana legislation to look into, Senate Bill 301 refers to a one-page bill that was first read to the Oregon Senate on the 7th of January, 2017. Contained within is a plan to amend ORS 659A.315, the state law making it unlawful to prohibit lawful tobacco products when off work. The proposed changes would grow the scope of the statute from “lawful tobacco products” to “a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state”. In effect, this change delivers emergency action, making a legal offense if employers discriminate employees for off-work use of cannabis, unless certain workplace conditions exist, including perceived effect on “performance of work while impaired”.

On the 27th of January, the Bill was referred to the judiciary and that was the last update provided in the state congress. The legislative precedent of the Bill would shift two things:

  • The credibility of wrongful termination suits wherein a substance that is allowed to be used in the state (WEED) is cited as part of the reason
  • The ability of employers to enforce policy that limit off-work cannabinoid freedoms are likely to be handled in a lengthy process of appeals and, hopefully, will make it economically unappealing to pursue such policy (unless the employer has a bona fide reason to limit such behavior)

Ultimately, this seems like a step in the right direction. Just like alcohol and cigarettes before it, implementing marijuana policy in ways that education, normalize, and create behavioral expectations surrounding the accepted use, harm reduction further benefits these social forces. Afterall, it doesn’t seem to make sense that cannabis use would be legal, just like alcohol use, but you can still get fired for using it off the clock.

The Act would be effective the moment it passed.