It might not seem like it, but 2022 brought several changes to Oregon cannabis laws. The legislative session adjourned on Friday, March 4th, and several of the bills that passed have important ramifications we thought you should know about. For the most part, they are all loosely organized around reducing harm from the darker side of legal cannabis.
HB 1564 Passed
HB 1564 was originally a moratorium on Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) licenses for growing industrial hemp. As we’ve already explored, hemp farming has all sorts of beneficial applications, and a full-blown moratorium on hemp licenses would stifle what is an otherwise burgeoning industry here in Oregon.
Proponents of the original bill wanted the legislature to help curtail illegal cannabis grow operations that have been popping up and masquerading as legitimate hemp farms. Fortunately, Oregon achieved a more balanced resolution that allows counties who have declared a cannabis-related state of emergency to request that ODA deny new hemp license applications.
Handling these moratoriums on a county-by-county basis allows counties like Jackson County to address their illicit cannabis grow problems, while leaving other counties with more honest enterprises free to develop their economies.
HB 4016 Passed
On the flip side, HB 4016 was introduced as simply a reinstatement of the moratorium on marijuana producer licenses from June 2019. That moratorium allowed the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission (OLCC) to deny new marijuana producer licenses until January 2022, in an effort to reduce the backlog of applications and the over-saturation of the market with cannabis products.
After demand for cannabis dropped following the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon has even more weed than we previously didn’t know what to do with. As a result, HB 4016 became a moratorium on all recreational license types—including a retroactive ban on OLCC marijuana license applications from January 1, 2022.
For now, that means no new licenses for recreational cannabis—producer, retailer, premium deliver service, etc.—will be considered in Oregon until at least March 3rd, 2024, with one exception. A provision of Section 4 allows “qualified applicants” (a term that might refer to people in disadvantaged social groups) to be assigned “expired, relinquished, or otherwise suspended” licenses, in the interest of taking steps toward social equity.
Until March 2024, the only way to enter the recreational cannabis space is buying a license secondhand from an existing cannabis business (usually as part of purchasing said business, ) and those can run $125,000–$175,000 because they’re in such high demand.
HB 4061 Passed
In another effort to crack down on illegal cannabis grow operations, HB 4061 introduces new prohibitions and penalties of up to $25,000 for anyone providing or receiving water at an unregistered or unlicensed grow site. Cannabis is a thirsty plant, and there are ways of tracing any suspiciously large consumption of water back to its source.
HB 4074 Passed
An issue that is related to illegal cannabis grow operations is human trafficking, where people are forced to work on cannabis farms under threat of harm to themselves or their families. One such case has already been investigated, and they found the workers living in squalor, often sleeping on cardboard mats or in tents. HB 4074 gives law enforcement and the OLCC additional investigatory powers in cases of suspected human trafficking, appropriating $6,000,000 for communities to deal with the humanitarian crisis present at some illegal grow operations. It also requires marijuana workers to report suspected incidents of human trafficking on licensed premises to the OLCC.
HB 4074 does a few other things, including requiring workers in cannabis testing laboratories to obtain OLCC marijuana worker permits.