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Legal pot and car crashes: Yes, there’s a link

Does driving while high have any impact on auto accident rates? Legalized recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Oregon and Washington correlates to about a 3 percent increase in auto collision claim frequencies compared to states without such legislation, according to a new Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) study. It’s the first one the group has conducted since the drug went on sale legally.
mj-collisionsSOURCE: HIGHWAY LOSS DATA INSTITUTE

 

“More drivers admit to using marijuana, and it is showing up more frequently among people involved in crashes,” the study said.

The HLDI is affiliated with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research organization that usually focuses on figuring out which cars are safest. The group is funded by auto insurance companies, which have a vested interest in not having to pay claims and — of course — hold a bias against impaired driving of any kind.

According to the HLDI, past researchers haven’t been able to “definitively connect marijuana use with real-world crashes,” and even a federal study failed to find such a link. “Studies on the effects of legalizing marijuana for medical use have also been inconclusive,” said the HLDI.

Instead, the group focused on three states — Colorado, where legal marijuana retail sales started in 2014, as well as Oregon and Washington, where sales began in 2015 — and compared them to the collision claims in neighboring states such as Nevada and Utah, parts of which now allow only medical marijuana. It also factored in statistics regarding the three states where recreational use is now legal from before it became available to the general public.

Colorado saw the largest estimated increase in claim frequency — 14 percent more than its bordering states, while Washington state was 6 percent greater and Oregon had a 4 percent increase. Allowing for the total control group, “the combined effect for the three states was a smaller, but still significant at 3 percent,” said HLDI Vice President Matt Moore.

The group used collision claims because they are the most frequent kind insurers receive. Drivers file these claims for damage to their vehicle in a crash with an object or with another vehicle, generally when the driver is at fault, the HLDI said.

The HLDI said it’s preparing for more of these studies and has already begun a “large-scale case-control study” in Oregon to find out if usage could be causing automotive injuries.

But the auto insurance industry’s position on legalized marijuana is already crystal clear. “Worries that legalized marijuana is increasing crash rates aren’t misplaced,” said David Zuby, chief research officer of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “The HLDI’s findings on the early experience in Colorado, Oregon and Washington should give other states eyeing legalization pause.”

  • Ed Leefeldt

    Ed Leefeldt is an award-winning investigative and business journalist who has worked for Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones, and contributed to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He is also the author of The Woman Who Rode the Wind, a novel about early flight.

Seniors Increasingly Getting High, Study Shows

elderly_marijuana December 6, 2016 Kaiser Health News

Baby boomers are getting high in increasing numbers, reflecting growing acceptance of the drug as treatment for various medical conditions, according to a study published Monday in the journal Addiction.

The findings reveal overall use among the 50-and-older study group increased “significantly” from 2006 to 2013. Marijuana users peaked between ages 50 to 64, then declined among the 65-and-over crowd.

Men used marijuana more frequently than women, the study showed, but marital status and educational levels were not major factors in determining users.

The study by researchers at New York University School of Medicine suggests more data is needed about the long-term health impact of marijuana use among seniors. Study participants said they did not perceive the drug as dangerous, a sign of changing attitudes.

The study was based on 47,140 responses collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Joseph Palamar, a professor at the NYU medical school and a co-author of the study, said the findings reinforce the need for research and a call for providers to screen the elderly for drug use.

“They shouldn’t just assume that someone is not a drug user because they’re older,” Palamar said.

Growing use of the drug among the 50-and-older crowd reflects the national trend toward pushing cannabis into mainstream culture. Over 22 million people used the drug in 2015, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Eight states have legalized the drug for recreational use as well as medicinal use, according to Marijuana Policy Project, a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to enacting non-punitive marijuana policies across the United States. The drug has also proved to be a financial boon for state economies,  generating over $19 million in September in Colorado.

Researchers also uncovered an increasing diversity in marijuana users. Past-year use doubled among married couples and those earning less than $20,000 per year.

More people living with medical conditions also sought out marijuana. The study showed the number of individuals living with two or more chronic conditions who used the drug over the past year more than doubled. Among those living with depression, the rate also doubled to 11.4 percent.

Palamar says the increase among the sick could be attributed to more individuals seeking to self-medicate. Historically, the plant was difficult to research due to the government crackdown on the substance. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies the plant as a Schedule I substance, “defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Benjamin Han, assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and the study’s lead author, fears that marijuana used with prescription drugs could make the elderly more vulnerable to adverse health outcomes, particularly to falls and cognitive impairment.

“While there may be benefits to using marijuana such as chronic pain,” he said, “there may be risks that we don’t know about.”

The push and pull between state and federal governments has resulted in varying degrees of legality across the United States. Palamar says this variation places populations at risk of unknowingly breaking the law and getting arrested for drug possession. The issue poses one of the biggest public health concerns associated with marijuana, Palamar says.

But unlike the marijuana of their youth, seniors living in states that legalized marijuana for medicinal use now can access a drug that has been tested for quality and purity, said Paul Armentano deputy director of NORML, a non-profit group advocating for marijuana legalization. Additionally, the plant is prescribed to manage diseases that usually strike in older age, pointing to an increasing desire to take a medication that has less side effects than traditional prescription drugs.

The study found over half of the users picked up the habit before turning 18, and over 90 percent of them before age 36.

“We are coming to a point where state lawmakers are responding to the rapidly emerging consensus-both public consensus and a scientific consensus — that marijuana is not an agent that possesses risks that qualifies it as a legally prohibited substance,” he said.

 

Oregon Will Soon Start Testing Age Compliance At Marijuana Stores


For the past year, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has been snowed under with applications from people wanting to sell recreational marijuana.On Tuesday, OLCC spokesman Mark Pettinger said it’s time to start shifting resources to the compliance side. He said the agency is about to start sending young adults to cannabis stores to see whether they can get in.

Adults 21 years and older can buy recreational marijuana products in Oregon.

Pettinger said keeping minors out of dispensaries is different than policing alcohol retailers because clerks don’t check IDs for alcohol until a person is about to make a purchase.

“With marijuana or cannabis retailers, that screening is supposed to take place as they enter the premises,” he said.

For years, the OLCC has tested compliance at liquor stores. Many of those stores have ID verification software systems to check for fakes.

Fledgling marijuana dispensaries have yet to install the technology, Pettinger said.

It’s unknown whether the industry has a problem with underage customers.

Oregon Sets Massive Precedent — Refuses to Enforce THC Blood Limit for Driving

traffic_stop_socosher
Photo Credit: Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office
The state is leading the way by insisting that science and evidence prevail when it comes to marijuana and DUID.

There’s a lot to be said for states that have legalized recreational and/or medical cannabis, but even Colorado and Washington have one problem – arbitrary blood-THC limits which imply a driver is impaired.

These numbers, such as Washington’s 5ng/ml, have no scientific basis for assessing the level of impairment. Despite this, six states with legal weed have per se limits for tetrahydrocannabinol; being over that number automatically makes you guilty of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID).

Oregon, however, is bucking the trend. In its DUI Legislative Report, the state’s Liquor Control Commission said it is recommending against a per se THC limit. By relying on the actual state of science, this welcome exercise in rationality should set an example for other states setting up their own regulatory framework.

Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission was tasked in 2015 with “regulating the recreational marijuana market in Oregon, with studying the question of THC-related intoxicated driving.”

According to the report:

Due to restrictions on cannabis research and limited data, it is difficult to make definitive statements about the risk of THC-intoxicated driving. The body of evidence that does exist indicates that while attitudes towards driving after marijuana use are considerably more relaxed than in the case of alcohol, the risk of crashes while driving under the influence of THC is lower than drunk driving. Little evidence exists to compel a significant change in status quo policy or institute a per se intoxication standard for THC.

widely-reported study by the American Automobile Association in 2016 found no scientific basis for blood-THC limits and called on the six states using such laws to abandon them. Chemical tests for THC have not been shown to correlate to things like brake and gas pedal coordination, distance perception and general attention.

The only thing we know about blood-THC and driving is that it is not comparable to the tests for alcohol impairment. There is no THC breathalyzer test, and urine tests cannot detect it. Some blood tests can distinguish between THC and its longer-lasting metabolites, but these levels can vary widely depending on how often the person uses cannabis. Test results will also vary based on whether one smoked or ate the cannabis.

One person can feel impaired at 5ng/ml while another can function with no detectable impairment. In fact, many people charged with DUID based on arbitrary blood-THC limits have convinced juries they were not impaired when they were pulled over.

Even so, driving studies show driving while on cannabis is far less dangerous than driving on alcohol, including one finding virtually no driving impairment from cannabis. Other studies have found that speed is typically reduced while driving on cannabis, and people deliberately compensate for any impairment, although multitasking was somewhat affected.

In no way does this mean anyone can just toke up and get behind the wheel. Cannabis is psychoactive, and people unaccustomed to cannabis – especially teenagers – should certainly refrain from driving.

The Oregon Commission’s report also supports the premise that cannabis users are more responsible drivers than alcohol use.

The rate of drivers tested by Drug Recognition Experts who are positive for THC intoxication rose between 2013 and 2014, but did not increase following legalization. Fatal accidents data is highly variable year-to-year, making trend analysis difficult. But in Oregon in 2015 there were only three more traffic fatalities involving a driver testing positive for THC compared to 2004. Moreover, the rate of THC-related fatal accidents is also considerably lower than such accidents involving alcohol intoxication. Finally, while overall traffic fatalities and alcohol-related fatalities spiked in 2015, THC-related fatalities did not.

As a spokesman for AAA noted when their study was published, the increased risk from driving on cannabis is about the same as driving with a “noisy child in the back of the car,” and only half as dangerous as talking on a hands-free cellphone (legal in all states).While thankfully avoiding an arbitrary blood-THC limit recommendation, the Oregon Commission still felt compelled to offer advice on cannabis and driving. It recommended increasing the use of “Drug Recognition Experts” who administer lengthy sobriety tests specific to cannabis, as well as implementing a voluntary oral swab test to collect data.

Possible New Pot Laws for Oregon in 2017

asklawyer-istock-lushik-openrangestockISTOCK / LUSHIK / OPENRANGESTOCK

What New Legislation is on Oregon’s Docket?

What new pot laws might the state foist upon us?

BUCKLE UP, FRIEND. There could be several. The Oregon state legislature convenes next Wednesday, February 1, and its website contains a slough of pot law proposals (28 draft bills, by my count). Many of these will be revised, consolidated, or simply cast aside, but the legislature’s general thinking is now on display. Below are some highlights.

Veterans—SB 130 would waive medical marijuana card fees for veterans who have a “total disability rating of at least 50 percent” resulting from service, and who were discharged or released “under other than dishonorable conditions.” That’s a starting point, but it would be classier and less complicated to waive card fees for all the vets. Here’s hoping.

Administration—SB 300 would relieve the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) of its cannabis oversight and transfer that responsibility to an “Oregon Cannabis Commission.” Other bills, HB 2198 and 2200, would change the name of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to the “Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission,” and euthanize OHA. However it plays out, we will likely see weed administration further consolidated in Oregon, and likely under OLCC. That’s a good thing.

Hemp—HB 2372 would establish an Oregon Industrial Hemp Commission, and HB 2371 would create a program at Oregon State University to label and certify agricultural hemp seed. The industrial hemp program in Oregon is finally gaining traction; these would be good steps.

Research—HB 2197 would direct the OLCC to work with a nongovernmental entity that conducts or funds research on weed and cannabis-derived products. Public dissemination of all research findings would be required. This would be terrific: Because of federal law, the double blind testing normally conducted on medical products—which is the gold standard for FDA approvals—has been mostly inaccessible for pot. Let’s hope this one passes.

Energy Efficiency—HB 2205 would direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture to work with vendors to create efficiency standards for pot production. Once these standards were developed, a certification protocol would ensue. Seems like another good idea.

Property Tax Exemption—HB 2151 would grant a state property tax exemption for new equipment for processors of cannabinoid edibles (as well as for makers of booze). This would make a big difference for some pot processors statewide, when you consider the steep cost of some of this equipment.

Pot Lounges! Pot Events!—SB 307 would exempt cannabis lounges from the onerous provisions of the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act, so that we could have cannabis cafés, like Colorado does. The bill would also allow OLCC to grant temporary licenses to pot events.

Crime and Punishment—SB 570 would create two new crimes, related to “administering a marijuana item to the body of a person who is under 18 years of age,” intentionally or knowingly. The maximum penalties are intimidating: 20 years’ imprisonment, $375,000 fine, or both. Do not give pot to kids.

Is Home Cultivation Finally Coming to Washington State?

home-grow-bill-1280x800

A new bill in the Washington state Legislature would add a long-awaited provision to the state’s cannabis law to allow adults 21 and over to grow their own supply of cannabis at home.

The new legislation, HB 1092 introduced last week by Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), would allow adults to grow cannabis plants at home for personal use—a move that would align Washington with the rest of adult-use states.

As it stands, Washington is the only state that allows retail sales of adult-use cannabis but still bars home cultivation. Currently only registered medical patients with a state-issued permit can legally grow at home.

If the bill is enacted, adults 21 and over would be able to grow up to six plants on their private property. Yields would be limited to no more than 24 ounces, or a pound and a half of useable cannabis. Homes with more than one adult resident could legally house up to 12 plants, for up to 48 ounces, or three pounds.

A big question that remains is how consumers would go about getting cannabis seeds in the first place. The purchase and sale of seeds is still illegal under state and federal law, despite the fact Washington has legalized cannabis itself. Under the current proposed bill, there is no mention of where consumers would be able to purchase cannabis seeds were the bill to become law.

Daniel Shortt, a Seattle-based cannabis lawyer at the firm Harris Bricken, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that he believes the new bill will have to answer how home growers can acquire seeds.

“The way the entire marijuana market is set up, producers and processors can sell to retailers, who can sell to the public. Would that mean that now, to get these seeds, potential home growers are getting seeds from the retail store?” said Shortt. “If those seeds are being sold, that’s really the only place where the government could actually get revenue from taxes.”

In 2016 alone, Washington lawmakers introduced 44 bills that deal with cannabis in some fashion. The list includes bills that relax residency requirements for licensed marijuana business owners as well as legislation around medical marijuana patients and their employers.

The recently introduced House Bill 1060 has garnered bipartisan support. The measure would allow medicinal marijuana to be administered on school grounds to children who need cannabis to function normally, such as those who suffer from daily seizures.

A full list of cannabis bills that have been introduced in the state is available online.

Oregon reports big jump in marijuana business applications, licenses

In another sign that cannabis could be bigger business than previously forecast, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission says it received 1,907 recreational marijuana license applications in 2016 — far outstripping a projected 800 to 1,200, the agency said.

Seven hundred sixty-two of those applications were approved as of the end of last week, a big jump from 500 licenses in early December. In that time, the number of licensed retailers went from 99 to 260.

Processors, who have struggled with strict testing and labeling requirements, have been slower to get licensed, but the number in that category was up significantly as well, from 18 to 51.

“Our staff has worked nonstop and with determination to get this industry licensed,” OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks said in a statement. “Working after hours, working weekends, traveling long distances, this team has been flexible in getting this industry licensed, without compromising the trust placed in us to protect the public.”

Oregonians voted for legalization in November 2014, and the state began transitioning toward a regulated recreational market in October 2015 with “early start” rules, which allowed dispensaries to extend sales to adults who didn’t have medical cards.

That got recreational sales off to a fast start: In December, the Department of Revenue reported that tax payments totaled $54.5 million from Jan. 1 through Nov 30., $13.8 million more than the Legislative Revenue Office had projected.

But early sales ended with the arrival of 2017; all businesses operating in the recreational space now must be licensed by the OLCC.

The big increase in recreational retailers has coincided with a decline in dispensaries.

As of last week, since Oct. 1, 121 dispensaries had either surrendered their registration or withdrawn their application to go retail, and the number of dispensaries had shrunk from a peak of 425 to 307.

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, co-vice chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Legalization, told the Business Journal’s Elizabeth Hayes that he expected the number to ultimately dwindle to around 30.

In its statistics update, the OLCC also reported that it had approved 9,041 Marijuana Worker Permits out of 10,700 applications received.

Pete Danko

Some Oregon Marijuana Dispensaries Devastated by Recreational Sales Deadline

chrismathewsstashcannabis800x445-min 01/06/2017

By Keith Mansur     Oregon Cannabis Connection

There is definitely no wait at Stash Cannabis Company in Beaverton, Oregon, the past couple of days. Since the deadline for Oregon’s medical marijuana dispensaries passed on December 31, stores that have been waiting for their licenses from Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) are seeing a lot fewer customers.

It’s so bad that they had only two sales on January 4, for $125.00, and barely over $100 the previous day. The typical sales at Stash Cannabis Company, before they were forced to go back to medical-only sales, was about $4000 a day.

The problem has been devastating for dispensaries that are stuck in limbo between receiving their OLCC licenses and the deadline to end early sales that passed on December 31. These dispensaries, which had been allowed to sell to the recreational market since October 2015, are now out in the cold.“At that pace we will be at $3000 for the whole month,” explained Chris Mathews, owner of Stash Cannabis Company. “We’re turning away 75 or 80 people a day, at least.”

Mathews paid for his application on December 13, after waiting since August on a letter from his landlord showing he had legal occupancy of the building—an application requirement even though he had an operating medical dispensary under the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) system licensed by the city of Beaverton as a medical marijuana dispensary. He has still not gotten an appointment for an inspection walk-through, the last step before licensing. In fact, he may have fallen further back in line, according to his most recent conversation with OLCC.

Mathews emailed OLCC for the status of his application on December 21. They responded, telling him he was 10th in line. Anxious about the looming deadline, he emailed again December 27, and found he was still 10thin line. Finally, he checked on January 4 and found he was now further back in line,  suspiciously moved to 15th!

“It’s frustrating,” Mathews told Oregon Cannabis Connection (OCC). “I have met all the requirements, I took the Metrc training, and I’m just waiting for an inspection.”

He has been given no timeline, either. “They told me to call back next week and they will tell me where I am at then.

Washington and black market benefit

Martin Nickerson simply closed his McMinnville, Oregon, dispensary doors at Ocean Grown Cannabis Company. He knew it was a pointless endeavor to try and operate when the vast majority of his customer base was forced to shop elsewhere—which he knows means Washington state. Originally from Washington, Nickerson understands the market there and has even been told by his customers that’s where they are willing to go.

“We’ve shut down until we get our OLCC license,” Nickerson told OCC.
The county was holding up his Land Use Statement, or LUCS, which is a required part of the application. They received the LUCS January 4, the day we spoke with him. The OLCC now has a completed application and he is awaiting inspection.“The dispensary was being hit so hard on loss of product. We were watching customers go right to the black market or they are going right across the border to Washington,” Nickerson explained. “If you go across the border to Washington … they’ve got 50 different kinds of concentrates from $18.00 to $24.00 a gram. I have had customers tell me if it’s that much cheaper and there’s that much selection and accessibility to product, it’s worth the drive.”

“I want to see them helping us and not hurting us. If we could just work together and talk,” Nickerson said. “I appreciate the work they put in and all the time and effort that has gone into legalizing marijuana in Oregon, but they should be asking the cannabis community ‘what should we do here?’, you know?”

“We are trying to beat the black market and I am right here with the state to help them every step of the way but, boy, I hope they start to listen a little bit,” explained Nickerson.

Tax losses are huge already

The 420 Club in the City of Roseburg, Oregon, was the first licensed marijuana dispensary located in Douglas County, a county that still bans cannabis businesses due to a commission-imposed ban ordinance. The attempted repeal attempt failed in November 2016. Roseburg, however, has allowed dispensaries since 420 Club opened on November 6, 2014, and recreational sales eventually were allowed, too. One of the selling points for recreational cannabis to the city of Roseburg and an main argument for lifting the ban in the county was the tax benefits.

Four dispensaries were operating in Roseburg and 420 Club alone was contributing $18,000 in tax to the Oregon Department of Revenue every month, but that changed in October with the shortage of concentrates and edibles, and in some cases flower, for a few weeks.

“For the last two months we have collected $10,000 per month in taxes, but in the previous year we were collecting about $18,000 a month,” explained Hoyt. “As soon as the state started messing with the testing [on October 1, 2016], our sales dropped 40%.”

“However, now we aren’t collecting any taxes because of not being issued our license yet,” he told us. “We’re obviously not collecting anything for the state in taxes.”

They started their application process at the beginning of December and have faced delays similar to what other dispensaries have encountered. They submitted their application somewhat late because they had very low inventory and nothing available due to the testing backlog and timing of that with harvest. The same timing happened all across the state as dispensaries struggled to stock their shelves before the switch to OLCC retail sales.

“They did all the testing changes at harvest time, and that’s something you just don’t do because everybody and their brother has herb to be tested,” Hoyt pointed out. “That was just the wrong time to do what they did.”

It’s a widespread problem

“This was a completely avoidable disaster,” explained Casey Houlihan of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association. “Several agencies dropped the ball and are now pointing fingers at one another, while our industry grinds to a halt. Scores of shops are scaling back employee hours, forced to turn away would-be customers because they are stuck waiting for a rubber stamp.”

The association has been working to help  cannabis businesses in Oregon negotiate policy issues. Their membership includes about 120 businesses and 65 dispensaries. They have provided guidance and input to legislators and administrators over the past few years in an attempt to prevent onerous rules and stifling regulations from being placed on the industry. They continue to address problems and suggest solutions to rulemakers and legislators.

“This was not the legislature’s intent when they passed ‘early sales’ [SB 460] in 2015,” Houlihan said. “The Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association is doing everything we can to develop and organize for a solution to the current crisis, and we are working with policymakers to help make that happen.”

The number of licensed cannabis OLCC retailers (dispensaries) in Oregon as of December 30, 2016, was 216, according to the OLCC website information atwww.oregon.gov/olcc/marijuana. Of those only 178 have active licenses. 314 medical marijuana dispensaries remain on the OHA list, which is can be found athttp://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/. on their website. Rob Patridge, OLCC Chairman, told OCC that as of January 4, 257 applications have been approved.

Is there a solution?

The deadline was put in place by statute, so  legislative action would be required to change it. But the problem is immediate and serious, so waiting for the legislature to take care of this is no solution at all. Unfortunately, it appears that is a major roadblock.
“OLCC remains committed to expediting late filing applications and has been taking steps throughout the year to facilitate a quick transition, including working directly with applicants to complete their applications. Applicants can speed up the process by inventorying their products and completing their Inventory Transfer Requests. The December 31 deadline cannot be changed without legislative action since it is in statute. The deadline has been in place for 17 months, starting on July 27, 2015, when SB 450 became effective. The OLCC has been accepting applications for a year and retailers that applied and were ready have been approved through the OLCC’s expedited process. As of yesterday, 257 retail licenses have been approved and staff expects more to be approved shortly as applications are completed.”Patridge explained:

We also reached out to Rep. Ann Lininger, who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Marijuana, but received no response.

The reasons for delays are numerous and many have been forced by local regulations, inattentive landlords, rules changes and myriad reasons other than procrastination. If they have already paid the application fee and are already a licensed dispensary under the OHA, is there no way to allow them to continue to operate?

Let’s hope a solution can be revealed sooner rather than later.

© 2016 Oregon Cannabis Connection.

Portland is Behind on Issuing Cannabis Business Licenses

rsz-portland-is-behind-on-issuing-cannabis-business-licenses

With only a few weeks to go until the Oregon Health Authority officially turns the new commercial cannabis industry over to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission there is not much time left for businesses to obtain all their needed licenses. In the city of Portland there have been delays in the permit process for several cannabis businesses – who were worried that they would be shut down come January 1st when those licenses become required. Luckily, the Portland City Council has taken action to ensure that businesses awaiting licenses will not have action taken against them at start of the new year.

“There was some concern in the media about lots of businesses being found out of compliance and shut down January 1,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz said. “As long as there are good faith efforts that they’re in the process that is not going to happen. We appreciate most businesses are working their way through the process”

In hopes of speeding up the process some, the council also agreed that retail dispensaries will be able to obtain their licenses from the Office of Neighborhood Involvement – even if they are still in the process of obtaining all the permits they need. As long as they get the permits and have been successful in working through the complicated process, then they will be eligible to get their license ahead of schedule. This will not however, be an option for growers or processors – likely due to the fact that there are much more in depth inspections required for such businesses.

“We want to be very clear that the city and the Cannabis Policy Program will not be taking enforcement measures against any legally operating marijuana business that is currently waiting in line for its recreational license to be issued,” Fritz said at the top of the Council meeting.

Along with the measure that aims to help push along the licensing of retail cannabusinesses, the city council also approved a measure that will allow for a new license – for marijuana couriers. Such a license wouldn’t allow businesses to have a retail storefront – but it would allow them to have a headquarters, receive orders between 8am and 8pm, and make deliveries of cannabis up until 9pm. This is a first of its kind license – headquarters would have to remain 1,000 feet away from schools like any other cannabis business, but they would be able to deliver to homes that are closer.

It’s exciting to see the city coming to the end of a long initial process that has created what will likely be a thriving industry – and bringing new opportunities, such as the new licenses for marijuana couriers. Both of these measures will be voted on a second time next week before they are officially passed, but both seem to be extremely well supported and it is unlikely there will be any issue.

Fresh evidence of Oregon cannabis industry’s pain

main-street-marijuina-gorilla-glue750xx5472-3078-0-285Pete Danko

Marijuana sales in Oregon slid at an accelerating rate after new testing and packaging regulations went into effect, according to a new report.

Colorado-based BDS Analytics, which says it collects actual point-of-sale transactions, said dispensary sales were $7.6 million the first week of the month, then after a gradual decline landed at $6 million in the final week.

For the month, the firm estimated sales of $29.5 million, down 8.5 percent from September and the first time since May that sales hadn’t cracked $30 million.

Late last week, after weeks of often desperate requests and complaints from the industry, state regulators issued temporary rules intended to ease the testing burden and get product moving through the supply chain again. Many in the industry, however, said the revisions fell short of what was needed.

Economist Beau Whitney, who released his own survey in late November showing more than a fifth of Oregon cannabis businesses shutting down, said the new rules were “like putting small twigs at the back of a beaver dam – the water is still backing up, with no apparent end in sight.”

In its report, BDS said edibles have been particularly hard hit since October, with sales falling from $3 million in September to $2 million the following month. Producers of those products have faced the most extensive and costly testing burden.

BDS also released November data from a subset of dispensaries that feed the firm information and found same-store sales down 21 percent from September to November, “with some stores declining more than 60 percent in retail dollars.”