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Obtaining legal marijuana a hot issue

Source of seeds, starts in hazy area 'til retail shops open in July

In less than five months, Oregonians age 21 and older can legally grow and consume recreational marijuana under Measure 91, which passed last fall. But retail pot stores aren’t opening until sometime in 2016, raising questions about where people will acquire the plant seeds or starts to grow their own soon-to-be-legal marijuana.

The fast-approaching July 1 legalization date prompted the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to ask state lawmakers for direction on where people should legally obtain cannabis seeds and plant starts.

Rob Patridge, Klamath County district attorney and chairman of the OLCC Board of Commissioners, asked lawmakers at a hearing last Wednesday night whether they want to assume “immaculate conception” — essentially not address the question of where legal recreational marijuana comes from. The alternative, Patridge said, was “whether this Legislature wants to allow us to bring, for a limited amount of time, some of the clones and seeds and etcetera over from the medical side.” He termed that “half-immaculate conception.”

Patridge said if lawmakers do not address this question, it could put the entire marijuana industry at risk. Colorado required people to obtain marijuana seeds and starts from medical growers, while Washington assumed immaculate conception.

State lawmakers in a joint committee empaneled to implement Measure 91 did not give a definitive answer on the question Wednesday night, but Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, the co-chairwoman, said they should address it in legislation. Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, the other committee co-chairwoman, said lawmakers should consider the growing seasons for people who cultivate marijuana outdoors, because legislation on the issue could determine whether they have an opportunity to contribute to the original legal stock.

The OLCC’s request for guidance on the origin of legal marijuana was one of 52 issues the agency asked lawmakers to clarify. The OLCC needs to begin writing rules to implement Measure 91, and Burdick said the committee will include many of these time-sensitive recommendations in the first of two major bills. Many OLCC recommendations are technical and will be included in the first bill that lawmakers will fast-track, Burdick said.

“After tonight, co-chair Lininger and I will get together and compile a bill that will probably err in the direction of being more inclusive of issue areas in the hopes of getting as much into this bill, to provide OLCC with the direction they need as they go through their rulemaking process,” Burdick said.

OLCC recommendations that provoke “a big firestorm” and other policy issues will be included in a main omnibus bill the committee will produce later in the session, Burdick said.