Oregon Liquor Control Commission director Steve Marks has sent a letter to the recreational marijuana community. His letter is below:
By Steve Marks,
Oregon Liquor Regulator Commission
It’s been a busy year for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Oregon marijuana community working together to establish Oregon’s new recreational marijuana market. Our work is far from complete but we pride ourselves with the strides we’ve taken to establish the legal market envisioned by Ballot Measure 91. 2016 has been filled with new laws, policy developments, and our furiously paced effort to license new businesses — from farms to retail. Together we’ve succeeded in creating an integrated and functioning market with harvest, transportation, testing, processing and sales taking place each day: our very immature market has established a strong foundation to build on.
In 2017 our work will be to grow this market into a strong, profitable, and exceedingly legal industry. We will continue to support job creation and revenue growth all around the state. The changes made this week by the Oregon Health Authority to modify testing requirements are just one part of the continuing effort to shape a regulatory structure that supports business efficiency and creativity, establishes a robust marketplace that attracts consumers, and protects public health and safety.
All of us recognize the work is far from finished! Each day brings new challenges as we work to provide diverse market choices and ensure the stable supply of steadily growing variety of cannabis products. We’re very aware of the acute problems the industry is experiencing right now. On both the industry and regulatory side of the equation, we have to make choices and set priorities as we navigate territory unfamiliar to all of us. We will continue to work closely with OHA, ODA and the Governor’s office to find the right balance in testing requirements. Establishing our Oregon recreational marijuana market will continue to require and consume the capital and creative resources of both businesses and regulators.
One of OLCC’s responsibilities is to be a clear and consistent communicator, because sharing regulatory expectations and requirements gives our new businesses a fighting chance to establish themselves and protect their bottom line.
I want our prospective licensees to know that more than 900 applications are now assigned to investigators, including all retail and processor applications that were submitted by November 30, and had an approved Land Use Compatibility Statement (LUCS), to give all of those businesses the opportunity to be licensed prior to the close of Oregon’s Early Start program on December 31.
We will be focused for the remainder of December and through the first part of the year to help these applicants move into the recreational market. While we understand that our speed and efforts are crucial for many of the small businesses trying to cross the finish line, your work as applicants is just as critical. We can do our part if you do yours.
For applicants now assigned to investigators please provide all the information OLCC staff ask for as soon as possible. Get your sites ready to pass inspection. Complete the fingerprinting required for background checks immediately. If you plan to transfer product from the medical to the recreational market through an inventory transfer, don’t wait until the end of the application process to provide that information to your investigator. The faster you move the faster we can respond.
At this time we estimate that assigned applications can be approved within three to six weeks when applicants quickly complete all the required steps. In some cases it can take less time, and our investigators stand ready to try to make that happen for all retail and processor applicants assigned to them.
As the Executive Director, on the behalf of all of us at the OLCC, I want to convey to you that each of us see it as our job to help you succeed in meeting the hurdles of the regulatory environment and to put you in position to achieve business success through your own ingenuity and efforts. Certainly licensing is no guarantee of success, and it doesn’t mean we won’t make errors and mistakes along the way. We are in the period many of you have heard me describe as “the bumpy ride,” yet we are now turning the corner. Even in the midst of this turbulent transition businesses are developing, succeeding and are in position to grow within the recreational market. Most of what we are doing together is working, we have accomplished the ground work and established the foundation, and are ready to push into 2017.
2017 will also be the year our relationship matures and we will step up to level the playing field by enforcing the standards set in legislation and rule to ensure the firm establishment of an orderly, professional commodity market. This system you have helped create and invest in is one that must have internal integrity. We know that you expect and need fair enforcement within the system as well as action against illegal marijuana businesses that will undercut the legal market.
The OLCC understands progressive and proportional sanctions and as we move toward full enforcement, we will continue to emphasize educational compliance. At the same time we look to you to make a commitment to create best practices for your businesses, train your staff, and put constant care utilize the Cannabis Tracking System (CTS), the cornerstone of Oregon’s legal market.
Using the CTS requires rigorous attention to detail, but it is the fundamental component to support our enforcement responsibilities under state law, protect consumers, and provide an accountability system for tax collections; perhaps most importantly the CTS serves to prevent unwanted federal attention to Oregon’s decision to legalize cannabis sales and use. Given the importance of this system to all parts of the legalized market, please take the time to develop and master this system, and in turn we will do our part to improve and expand its capabilities.
Do expect us to routinely send out CTS-related notices to all licensees. We are committing to this because we are already seeing errors that when educational compliance expires, could lead to serious consequences. “Real time” guidance is not ideal but we believe it is necessary when systemic issues are developing that could lead to serious compliance problems for your business, and when we are overwhelmed with specific industry compliance questions. We will work to standardize the style of these communications so you recognize what they are and how to use them. As always, we are open to suggestions to streamline this flow of information, so do not hesitate to provide us feedback at email@example.com.
In 2016, you and the OLCC created Oregon’s recreational marijuana market. The OLCC is now ready to turn the corner with you. The new year will not be without challenges; there will be plenty of changes, responsibilities will shift and grow through the next legislative session. However because of our work together to this point, 2017 will be the year we deliver to Oregonians a developed, functional and maturing recreational marijuana market, one that is poised to tackle the opportunities and challenges the coming years will bring.
Thank you for your attention and work to make our system the best in the nation. Let’s continue to take pride in these efforts and the vision we have to achieve it.
Oregon Liquor Regulator Commission