Removing a two-year residency requirement to start a marijuana business is one of the proposed changes.

SALEM — Representatives from the marijuana industry came out in droves Tuesday to speak out on legislation to hone the state’s infant marijuana laws.

“This is going to be an ongoing process that probably goes on for several years, but I hope what you’re hearing is we are making a good faith effort to meet people’s needs,” said Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, co-chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Legalization.

The committee has moved a series of proposed changes to the law.

One of the changes would remove a two-year residency requirement to do business in the marijuana industry. Another would loosen restrictions on selling into both recreational and medical markets.

The Legislature largely prohibited out-of-state residents from participating in or investing in marijuana businesses. The proposed change would lift that restriction “to attract investments necessary for long-term growth,” said Amy Margolis of the Oregon Cannabis Association.

The association and other groups argued that limiting investments in marijuana businesses would severely hamper the industry.

Some growers told a different story Tuesday. Many growers said the market has become increasingly competitive and want the state to keep the residency requirement.

One grower said lifting the restriction would give an “unfair advantage against Oregon growers.”

“Residency requirements are important to ensure a functional system in Oregon,” said Jonathon Manton of the Oregon Sungrown Growers Guild. “OSGG believes they are also necessary for small business to have a chance of survival against large out-of-state interests.”

Another provision in the legislation would allow recreational producers to sell into the medical marijuana program.

That change anticipates an exodus of growers, processors and retailers from the medical program into the more profitable recreational industry when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission begins issuing licenses for recreational sales.

Some lawmakers are worried there won’t be enough low-cost medical marijuana available to patients. The pathway to sell into the medical program is one of the ways lawmakers are proposing addressing a shortage.

Lawmakers also have proposed making it easier for medical marijuana cardholders to share marijuana products with other cardholders, caregivers and dispensaries.

So far, about 80 percent of medical marijuana dispensaries have indicated they plan to switch to recreational sales when OLCC begins recreational licensing, according to an ongoing survey by the Oregon Health Authority.

Tuesday’s public hearing drew hundreds of attendees who filled the committee hearing room and an overflow committee hearing room. Some who couldn’t find seats sat in the Capitol’s lobby to watch live streaming video of the testimony.

Other provisions would:

• Decriminalize sharing up to 8 ounces of marijuana or 1 ounce of cannabinoid extracts with other household members who are 21 or older;

• Define the crime of “open container marijuana” as using the drug while operating a motor vehicle or having an unsealed or partially-used container in the vehicle;

• Allow offenders on parole, probation or other conditional release programs to use medical marijuana if they are cardholders;

• Change classification of certain marijuana related crimes. Export of marijuana would be a Class C felony if committed for the purpose of profit and otherwise, a Class A misdemeanor. Manufacturing pot within 1,000 feet of a school would be a Class B felony, while delivering to a minor, a Class C felony;

• Create a work group to recommend guidelines for prescribing cannabis and to issue a report to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2017;

• Fund a pilot program to increase awareness among youth about the impacts of using pot;

• Allow agreements between the states and Indian tribes to allow tribes to use state programs to sell marijuana.

Several committee members also proposed amendments to the legislation.

Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, has proposed delaying a March 1 deadline for medical marijuana plant limits while the Oregon Health Authority completes its process for grandfathering growers who were producing on or before Dec. 31, 2014. The delay would only impact growers with 48 to 96 plants, Burdick said.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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