State Senator Floyd Prozanski is one of the Oregon’s legislative leaders and chair of the State Senate’s judiciary committee. He’s been heavily involved in crafting the state’s social-use legislation as well as its retail medical-marijuana program. He’ll be appearing at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Portland on Sept. 28. We conducted this interview with on Sept. 14.
How is Oregon dealing with its reported marijuana surpluses and what some describe as excessive cultivation licensing?
In 2017, my Senate Bill 1042, which passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee that I chair, was going to give the governor what I call a tool in her toolbox to be able to enter into compacts with adjacent, adjoining states that had marijuana programs, either or both medical and recreational, and allow for the flow of cannabis products across state lines. I believe Oregon that the quality and the strains we produce in the medical arena would be in high demand for patients and individuals in the adjacent states. Unfortunately, the Senate leadership moved it to another committee for more consideration and it was not able to get out of that committee.
You’re talking about making Oregon-grown cannabis available in adjoining legal states like California and Washington?
Yes. Clearly, what we’d be doing at that point would be establishing a method to allow for these transfers to occur that would not be in violation of interstate commerce. To do that, we would to move the product from the Oregon into one of the three adjacent states that do have marijuana programs: California, Nevada and Washington. It would have to be through ground transportation only, because the federal government regulates air travel and marine travel.
“Allow cannabis to be available throughout the country. That would take away all of the diversion issues.”
This would allow us to address a lot of the concerns the Feds have regarding illegal diversion, because we would have a legal process for this to occur. There are multiple ways to implement that program to ensure the products that are being transported from Oregon are in compliance with the law, and that you don’t see a secondary diversion of that product.
The state has an overabundance of cultivation licenses. Does that concern you?
One of the things I hoped we could’ve done in 2015, when we started implementing Measure 91, was to limit the production of cannabis flower in the state to just residents. I lost the argument when it came down to the votes and amendments that were made, that would have put a limitation to just Oregon residents being able to continue to grow for a four-year period to allow for the market to kind of balance itself out. There were other people who clearly disagreed with that and talked about needing to have additional capital coming into the state.
“Why should another state that has no medical program try to create one out of thin air when they could actually be ordering their products from Oregon growers and Oregon producers?”
We also lost out on setting up a secondary type of license that would’ve been a vertical one which allowed someone that didn’t meet the residency requirements to still be able to come in and have business opportunities in the state, but at the same time they’d be limited as to what they could do with the product. Basically, this would be a vertical license. It would say that you could grow up to whatever the limits were under state law, but you would not be able to take that product – either as flower or processed into some other type of product – and flood the market. My proposal was that you would have to have your own retail shop.
That would curb the amount that would be growing, in my opinion, by vertically licensing growers. They would not have a market except through their retail outlets.
What’s the current status of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program? Are there more changes on the horizon?
That’s sort of a difficult question for me to answer at this stage. I expect that there will be additional proposed legislation by various individuals that will come in with different perspectives as to what they think should or shouldn’t occur in the medical arena. I personally want to see how we can retain the current leadership that we have as a state in the medical program, because I believe it’s one of our strongest economic drivers for a national model when we go interstate with cannabis throughout the country.
I think it’s fair to say that, over the 14 years we’ve had the medical program, Oregon has developed strains that have a direct, positive impact for medical patients. Why should another state that has no medical program try to create one out of thin air when they could actually be ordering their products from Oregon growers and Oregon producers? Heck, when it comes to liquor, you think about Kentucky. The same thing could be said about marijuana in Oregon.
“Oregon has been recognized as one of the leaders, if not the leader, in the cannabis industry.”
One of the things I think we can do to assist in this area is to create a medical license through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission that would, in fact, allow for those growers to be able to anecdotally report how their strains are being used and the impact that they’re having with their patients. We don’t have the scientific research that we would have had over these past 40-plus years, so this is a need I think that Oregon would be able to be on the cutting edge with a process and procedure and outcomes that we could actually utilize to market quality medicine from Oregon to fill the need of multiple states across the country.
Oregon has been recognized as one of the leaders, if not the leader, in the cannabis industry. I feel that we would actually have a market edge along with Colorado and Washington State. Those three have programs that have been in existence some length of time.
Advocates in Oregon are hoping that the legislature will approve cannabis social clubs next session. What’s your position on social use?
My position has been that we need to take this step by step. I believe we’ve taken the necessary steps to allow for that component in our industry to occur, move forward and evolve. Think about tourism. Take Portland. You have a lot of individuals that come into the city; they’re staying at hotels and would like to be able to partake, but, clearly, they can’t do it in their rooms. You have individuals that are in rent situations with prohibitions about smoking or use of controlled substances that are not sanctioned by the Feds; those individuals should have the opportunity to utilize these medicines as well as recreationally.
“I like the idea of a farm stand type of approach that would allow individuals to go out to a farm where it’s being grown.”
We’ve had two attempts in the last two sessions. I know there will be a bill introduced in the next session; I’ve been working with some of the proponents. I hope to have that discussion in a very meaningful way and move the state forward.
How about social use at cannabis farms like they have at wineries?
I like the idea of a farm stand type of approach that would allow individuals to go out to a farm where it’s being grown, to learn and be educated about the product and be able to have samples there. Southern Oregon is the area that I focus on; I’ve had two or three inquiries from the Ashland area and Jackson and Josephine Counties. I do believe we’ll see legislation for that as well.
What do you plan to speak about at the ICBC?
I’ll focus on what needs to be done from the users’ perspective and also what’s going to be viable for us to look at in the 2019 session, such as the diversion issue and how we can do that in a way that will actually be a positive for moving the industry forward while we still have a prohibition at the federal level.
The easiest thing would be for Congress to do what they should’ve already done: Allow cannabis to be available throughout the country. That would take away all of the diversion issues. Oregon would be exactly where I want it to be, positioned to take product that is now being grown and processed here and actually be able to service multiple individuals throughout the country. That’s what I’ll be talking about at the ICBC.
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