A novel bill that would allow Oregon to export and import marijuana to other legal states is heading to the governor’s desk after the House approved it June 11, 2019.
The legislation, which passed the Senate in May 2019, would permit the governor to enter into agreements with other states under certain circumstances in order to engage in interstate cannabis commerce. It would only be actionable if the federal government reforms its policies and allows such activity, however.
The chamber approved the bill in a 42-17 vote.
“This is a very strong statement by the Oregon Legislature, and one that will reverberate across the country,” Democratic state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, the bill sponsor, said in a press release. “The future of this industry is that cannabis will primarily be grown where it grows best, and most efficiently, and most sustainably. That’s what functioning legal markets do.”
States involved in the agreement must border Oregon and must have legal marijuana systems in place, meaning at this point the state could contract with California, Washington, and Nevada. Idaho also borders the state, but it does not currently allow legal cannabis. Transporting marijuana products would have to occur via roadways rather than through airspace.
There would also be requirements to establish a tracking system for the products, impose public safety standards and ensure that all transported items follow Oregon’s laws for labeling and packaging marijuana.
Language of the legislation indicates that the federal government wouldn’t necessarily have to formally legalize cannabis for it to become operative. That’s one possibility, but the other is that the Justice Department could adopt an administrative policy that “allows or tolerates interstate transfer of marijuana items.”
Preventing the transportation of cannabis across state lines has been a focus for the Justice Department, which included such activity in a list of enforcement priorities under a now-rescinded Obama-era memo.
But if the federal government does at least tolerate interstate marijuana commerce, the law could help resolve Oregon’s cannabis supply problems. The state has produced more marijuana than there’s demand for, and so opening the market to its neighboring states could mitigate that issue.
“This bill is a strategic business approach,” Republican Rep. Carl Wilson said. “It correctly assesses the industry’s strengths and foresees a time when export turns Oregon’s oversupply in a constrained market into a traded commodity in a national marketplace.”
“Cannabis policy is rapidly evolving in the United States; the federal stance toward marijuana could change quickly, with congressional action or something as simple as a memo from Dept. of Justice,” he said. “In this arena, Oregon has competitive advantage on the nation and the world.”
Because there are so many uncertainties surrounding the legislation’s potential economic impact, a fiscal note states that the “likelihood of losing revenue is as strong as the probability of gaining revenue” under the legislation.
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown had a hand in advancing the bill through the legislature and is expected to sign it.
Also on June 11, the state Senate approved legislation that would enable individuals with prior convictions for cannabis conduct made legal under the state’s marijuana program to have their records cleared by simply filling out a form. The bill — which by coincidence is numbered SB 420 — cleared the chamber in a 25-4 vote and now heads to Brown’s desk.
Featured Image: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign a bipartisan bill to allow for the legal export of cannabis between legal state markets, but only if the federal government allows the transfers. Feature image: Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
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