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Oregon Liquor Control Commission Licensing Director Message: Marijuana Licensing Streamlining Update

January 8, 2021

A Phased Approach

Early in 2020 because interest to enter Oregon’s expanding recreational marijuana market continued to grow, it became clear that we needed a new approach for processing marijuana license applications. In response, my staff and I conducted a program evaluation in March 2020, to identify opportunities for improvement throughout the licensing program. Aside from the need for our staffing resources to grow to match the industry’s requirements (which we will continue to address with our legislative partners) we developed a formal year-long improvement strategy outlined below in three phases.

Phase 1: Streamlined license renewal process (Complete)

This included reducing the complexity of renewal applications, making licensing system updates and updating internal processes regarding renewals. Improvements to our renewal system went live August 4, 2020.

Outcome: Marijuana license renewals process times have been reduced from an average of 347 days from submission in Q4 2019, to 156 days from submission in Q4 2020. Current licensees should realize these improvements at their next renewal period occurring after August 4, 2020.

 

Phase 2: Removal of Pre-licensing Inspections and streamlining workflows (Complete)

In April 2020, the Commission eliminated the requirement to conduct pre-licensing onsite inspections before issuing a license, and during last summer we made improvements to licensing workflows by reducing redundant routine reviews of work and providing more empowerment to staff. Our evaluation showed this was taking as much as 40-50% of the processing time for new applications; these improvements removed that constraint.

Outcome: Marijuana license application process times from assignment have been reduced from an average of 168 days in Q4 2019 to the average of 61 days in Q4 2020.

 

Phase 3: Entrusting the Industry (Complete)

The overall philosophy of this change was rethinking how we address marijuana licensing. Specifically, phase 3 changes reduced the level of scrutiny for applicants who have already been vetted and previously licensed. Further, the agency reassigned personnel and added contract workers to solely focus on licensing activity. The Commission also approved “streamlining licensing,” rule changes at our October 15, 2020 Commission meeting.

Outcome: License application processing times approved during the month of December 2020, averaged 54 days from the date of assignment. These tangible changes have reduced the back and forth between applicants and the Commission.

 

The Readiness Checklist: Who’s ready? Who’s not?

In addition, we’ve implemented a new process to provide us more insight into applicants within our applicant pool by utilizing a request for assignment form (aka “The Readiness Checklist”). This process helps identify a marijuana license applicant’s desire to be assigned and enables them to self-determine their readiness to complete the license process within the required 60 day period.

As of November 16, 2020, my staff has reached out to all 881 “pre-pause” applicants, to determine their desire and readiness to be assigned. Pre-pause applicants include applications submitted prior to the June 15, 2018, pause on processing licenses. As of January 5, 2021, we have:

  • 319 or approximately 36% of the 881 applications are ready to be assigned
  • 360 or approximately 40% of applicants have said they are not ready
  • These applicants have delayed assignment by an average of 5 months.
  • 139 applicants not respond at all.
  • 49 application withdrawals.
  • The remaining 14 are in process.

As of January 6, 2021, we have assigned all applicants who’ve requested to be assigned as of that date. Additionally, as we receive requests for assignments, now we are consistently able to assign applications within two to four weeks of receiving the request for assignment form.

In addition to this progress on new marijuana license applications, we have been able to reduce the time it takes to assign change requests (e.g. location, ownership, etc.) from four to six months in Q3 2019, to approximately two months in Q3 2020. Moving forward, while we further refine our processes, our standard is to be able to assign these requests within 60 days of receiving them.

Regarding the non-responsive applicants, we’ve reached out to each one and subsequently followed up with those applicants prior to December 12, 2020 in order to provide a final opportunity for them to respond before inactivating their application.

Industry members and applicants should ensure they are monitoring any communications from the Commission and double check that the contact information affiliated with the license application is up to date.

 

The New Year: What’s next?

Earlier this year, OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks committed to reducing the backlog of license applications by one third by February 1, 2021; at the time he made that pledge that meant reducing our application pool by a total of 350 applications. The progress we have demonstrated leads me to believe we will meet, or come close to, accomplishing that goal. Should we not be able to, this will be in large part due to the number of applicants who’ve indicated they’re not ready to be assigned. As mentioned above, we are assigning applications within two to four weeks of receiving a request for assignment form. The average time to process a license application once it’s assigned was 61 days in Q4 2020; that’s a significant reduction and close to the new standard we’ve set.

With the changes we’ve made this year and at the current pace that we receive license applications, this should not be difficult to maintain going forward. These accomplishments truly deliver what the industry asked us to address, both in timeliness and predictability. We hope this serves as an example of how we will continue to work with the industry and to strive to improve and make Oregon a leader in the cannabis industry and a model for cannabis regulation.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with feedback and guidance that will help us collectively make constructive improvements to the OLCC Recreational Marijuana Program.

Jason Hanson

OLCC Director of Licensing

Jason.hanson@oregon.gov

 

 

Audio From Oregon Liquor Control Commission Meeting On Vaping Rules

OREGON: Special Oregon Liquor Control Commission Meeting Audio from October 11, 2019: Discussion of Vaping Rules.OLCC Special Meeting Notes

Friday, October 11, 2019

AUDIO

Staff presentation of the issues and 
Commissioners discussion and decision of vaping rules.

For more information, contact: 503-872-5006 / 1-800-452-6522

laura.paul@oregon.gov

Commission Meeting Calendar

Oregon Health Authority & Oregon Liquor Control Commission Will Hold Press Conference On Temporary Vaping Ban

Agencies Will Explain Temporary Rules & Implementation Process for Banning the Sale of Flavored Nicotine and THC Vaping Products

OREGON: The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will hold a joint press conference Friday, October 11, 2019to discuss the adoption of temporary rules resulting from an Executive Order issued by Oregon Governor Kate Brown to address the vaping health crisis.

Leadership and staff from the OLCC and OHA’s Public Health Division will explain the implications of and the implementation process of their respective temporary rules which establish a temporary ban on the sale of flavored nicotine and THC vaping products.

The press conference will take place approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the OLCC Commission’s special meeting, and will be held in the Commission meeting room at OLCC headquarters in Portland.

There will NOT be a public live audio or video feed from the press conference.

The OLCC special commission meeting will start 11:30 AM.

The OLCC Headquarters is located at: 9079 SE McLoughlin Blvd, Portland, OR 97222.

 

Oregon Liquor Control Commission Seeks Input On Recreational Marijuana Regulations

OREGON: The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will hold several Rules Advisory Committees (RACs) beginning in late summer and continuing into this fall. The purpose of an advisory committee is to increase the public’s involvement in the drafting and development of administrative rules.

These meetings will focus on reviewing legislative changes made during the 2019 session and address other issues that have arisen within the licensed and regulated marijuana industry.

In order to fill the RACs, the Commission is asking licensees, partner agencies and businesses associated with the cannabis industry, to apply to be on the committees.

The Commission will use this recruitment process to obtain fresh perspectives on both the condition of the industry’s operating environment and the current state of the rules and regulatory process.

To apply to be considered for appointment to the committee please fill out this survey by August 1, 2019.

The Commission will review all responses and fill the membership of the committees in a manner that best represents the industry and reflects a wide range of perspectives on industry issues.

Following the completion of the committee work, the Commission will hold both a Public Hearing and provide a subsequent two-week comment period in order to acquire additional perspectives on the proposed changes considered by the committees.

Stakeholders and other interested parties will be notified about all committee and hearing dates, and the information will be published on the Commissions’ website.

Click here to apply for the OLCC Recreational Marijuana Program RACs.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission Releases Marijuana Policy Recommendations

OREGON:  The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has released its recommendations for the policy that will guide regulation of recreational marijuana. 

The OLCC’s highest priority is making sure minors do not have access to marijuana.

“It is not age discrimination to enforce age restrictions against minors consuming alcohol,” the commission wrote in its recommendations. “The same should be made clear for enforcing marijuana age restrictions.

The OLCC has also decided to clarify the definition of marijuana leaves saying, leaves are “everything that is not florae or immature plant.”

Marijuana Listening Tour: Oregon Liquor Control Commission Announces Two Stops In Eastern Oregon

OREGON:  The day after Oregon voters said yes to legalized marijuana last fall, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission chairman pledged to hit the road to hear what Oregonians have to say about what the industry should look like.

The agency is still pinning down dates and location for seven of the nine stops in the statewide “listening tour,” but the first two are already set: Baker City and Pendleton.

The liquor control commission will hold a meeting at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 22 at the Baker City Armory, 1740 Campbell St. It will meet at 7 p.m. that day at the Pendleton Convention Center, 1601 Westgate St.

Future stops are planned in Eugene, Bend, Salem, Portland, Ashland, Klamath Falls and the Oregon Coast. The details of those stops are still being worked out, said Karynn Fish, a spokeswoman for marijuana programs at the liquor control commission.

 

Oregon Recreational Marijuana Program Compliance Education Bulletin

 Identifying and Correcting Sampling and Testing Errors

 

OREGON:   The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is providing the following information to: recreational marijuana licensees.

The bulletin is part of OLCC’s compliance education. It is important that you read it, and understand it. If you don’t understand it please contact the OLCC for help.

Failure to understand and follow the information contained in this bulletin could result in an OLCC rules compliance violation affecting your ability to work or operate your business. 

Compliance Education Bulletin CE2021-03 covers the following issues

  • Common lab sampling errors
  • Common errors after testing is completed
  • Ways to prevent sampling and testing errors
  • What to look for in Metrc
  • Sampling and testing learning resources

Questions regarding the contents of this bulletin may be sent to marijuana.cts@oregon.gov

Read the complete version of the bulletin here

Early Identification of Sampling and Testing Errors Limits the Impact on the Supply Chain

Errors in sampling and testing can cause effects at all levels of the supply chain. It is important for all licensees to have an understanding of how the testing process flows and what to look for in Metrc.

Errors identified and corrected before test results are posted will minimize the impact of a mistake down the supply chain. The following bulletin explains how to identify common issues and who to contact to assist in getting the issues resolved.

Click here to read the complete version of Compliance Education Bulletin CE2021-03

Oregon Governor Brown Signs Hemp Regulatory Bill

Testing of southern Oregon hemp farms starts this week

 

OREGON:  At a special commission meeting on July 19, 2021, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) approved temporary rules allowing the agency to work with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to begin field testing of hemp fields across Oregon; these tests are to determine if the grows are legitimate or illegal. The OLCC rules follow yesterday’s signature by Oregon Governor Kate Brown of House Bill 3000, which also establishes standards to prevent minors from purchasing intoxicating products derived from hemp. 

The OLCC temporary rules establish a limit on the level of THC (the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana) that can be in a hemp-derived product. In addition, it creates methods for testing hemp in the field to distinguish between true hemp and marijuana.

This week, starting in southern Oregon, OLCC and ODA will begin to inspect registered hemp grow sites equipped with THC field testing units. “Our objective through the remainder of the summer and into the fall is to make sure that every field gets these tests done,” said OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks.

There are four main components to HB 3000:

  • Regulating cannabis intoxicants
  • Curbing illegal production of cannabis
  • State program compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill
  • Establishing a task force to address the regulation and marketing of growing cannabis in Oregon

Under the new law, sales of adult-use cannabis items to minors are immediately prohibited. Previously a form of THC, Delta-8-THC, could be produced from hemp and used to make products with higher potency levels than marijuana. However, Delta-8-THC was being sold outside Oregon’s regulated market and could be found at neighborhood convenience stores, where children could buy it. In January of 2022, the OLCC, ODA, and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will set new potency and concentration limits for THC and other cannabis intoxicants in hemp products intended for sale to adults.

The legislation requires establishing tracking requirements for cannabinoid hemp commodities and products intended for human consumption, similar to tracking cannabis products sold in the OLCC regulated recreational or adult-use market.

HB 3000 gives OLCC and ODA tools to target illicit production of hemp. Specifically around cannabis being illegally produced because it is unregistered or under the guise that it’s hemp. OLCC inspectors will support ODA’s staff, with law enforcement providing necessary protection and safety assessments to the joint inspection teams. Together the agencies will  inspect hemp grow sites to test the crop’s THC levels to determine compliance with Oregon’s Hemp Program and, if necessary, take enforcement action, which could include crop destruction.

The law amends Oregon’s hemp laws to align with state statues, 2018 Farm Bill requirements and the US Department of Agriculture’s final rules. Oregon will submit a State Plan to USDA demonstrating key compliance measures, including the authority for criminal records checks and allowing license denials based on a hemp registration applicant’s criminal record.

OLCC and ODA staff will brief southern Oregon elected officials on the inspection plans later this week as inspectors get ready to fan out across Jackson and Josephine counties. However, OLCC Executive Director Marks indicated that legitimate hemp farmers should have no concerns.

“We’re really not trying to define what hemp is here: we’re really trying to spot check and take a minimum amount of samples to figure out what is commercial marijuana,” said Marks. “This will enable ODA or law enforcement to stop the illegal production of marijuana disguised as hemp production.”

The OLCC temporary rules remain in effect until January 1, 2022, when additional other legislative requirements of HB 3000 go into effect.

OLCC Continues Transformation As Oregon’s Cannabis Regulator

Commission contemplates agency’s pending name change

Legislature adds to OLCC’s responsibilities, boosts agency budget

OREGON:  In the wake of Oregon’s recently completed 2021 legislative session, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission began contemplating the strategic path the agency will take to implement new regulatory responsibilities. That was one of the matters Commissioners covered during their regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, July 15, 2021.

The Commission also approved penalties in several stipulated settlements for violations committed by recreational marijuana licensees, placed restrictions on three recreational marijuana licenses, and approved a temporary rule adjusting a Cannabis Tracking System requirement.

Oregon lawmakers approved a series of bills that will continue the transformation of the OLCC’s regulatory responsibilities from an agency focused on oversight of the alcohol industry to a regulator engaged in consumer protection of alcohol and cannabis products, control of adult intoxicants, and upholding public health and safety laws. The agency’s evolving mission is reflected in a law changing the agency’s name to the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission that takes effect August 2, 2021.

The OLCC also provided technical support to legislators working to curb illegal hemp and marijuana production and bring hemp produced intoxicating products under stricter control. Currently Delta-8-THC, which is chemically extracted from hemp, can be sold to children at neighborhood convenience stores; House Bill 3000 requires the OLCC to keep THC products away from kids. HB 3000 also directs OLCC to work the Oregon Department of Agriculture and other state and local government agencies to crack down on illegal cannabis grows.

“What’s going on in southern Oregon with the cartel takeover of cannabis growing through the guise of hemp and our role in being able to enforce that is all incredibly important,” said OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks. “We and our partners are poised to begin eradicating this illegal activity, to bring stability to disrupted communities starting in Jackson and Josephine counties, and to ensure that our legal, licensed, tax-paying cannabis licensees aren’t being undermined by illegal market activity.”

The legislature approved the OLCC’s plan to modernize its licensing system and alcohol distribution and tracking infrastructure, approving funding for information technology upgrades and a new consolidated warehouse. Even before the pandemic distilled spirits sales have grown steadily year-over-year straining the existing capacity at OLCC’s two warehouses. Without the expansion the state is projected to lose $586.9 million during the next decade. The OLCC has been laying the groundwork to acquire a new warehouse for more than a year.

”Where this agency has to go, we really have to help all of our licensees,” said Marks. “The hospitality industry, alcohol and cannabis move on to post-Covid recovery. We’ve got a lot of challenges there for the industry next two years. To make sure Oregon’s economy is strong and we do our part with that with the resources given to us.”

Commissioners ratified the following violation fines and suspensions based on stipulated settlements (detailed information on specific cases can be found here on the OLCC website):

BLACK MARKET PRODUCTIONS will pay a $4,950 fine OR serve a 30-day recreational marijuana producer license suspension for one violation.

Licensee is: BM Productions, LLC; Daniel Shandy, Member.

TRYKE CITY in Brookings will pay a $5,750 fine OR serve a 23-day recreational marijuana retailer license suspension for one violation (second-level).

Licensee is: Tryke City, LLC; Bryan Grant, Member; Han Bao Liu, Member.

EXODUS WELLNESS CENTER in Portland will pay a $5,610 fine OR serve a 34-day recreational marijuana retailer license suspension for four violations.

Licensee is: Cathleen Huffine, Co-Licensee; Rick Dudley, Co-Licensee.

TELOS CONSULTING will surrender its recreational marijuana producer license for three violations, on the date the transfer of ownership of the business is completed or on October 15, 2021, whichever is earlier.

Licensees are: Telos Consulting, LLC; Yaqun Liu, Member.

The licensees of BULL MOON received a letter of reprimand for two violations. The licensees surrendered their recreational marijuana producer license to the OLCC on May 27, 2020.

Licensees are: Bull Moon, Inc.; Thomas Ertel, President/Secretary/Treasurer/Director; Tailed J, Inc., Stockholder; Thomas Ertel, President/Secretary/Treasurer/Director/Stockholder.

The licensees of SOLSGREEN received a letter of reprimand for seven violations. The licensees surrendered their recreational marijuana producer license to the OLCC on April 9, 2021.

Licensee is: P&E Green Solutions, LLC; Pedro Morales, Managing Member.

MARK SCHENK; permit holder will pay a $350 fine or serve a 14-day marijuana worker permit suspension for two violations.

The Commission approved restrictions to a recreational marijuana producer license for the applicants of

EUGENIUS. The applicant’s landlord, who will benefit or suffer financially from the proposed business, has a poor record of compliance as a recreational marijuana licensee. The license restrictions require that the landlord not have any involvement in the operation or management of the business, not act as employee or agent of the business, and not be on the licensed premises at any time.

The Commission approved restrictions to a recreational marijuana producer license for the applicants of FALAHI and a marijuana processor license for the applicants of FALAHI. The applications included one individual who has a poor record of compliance as a recreational marijuana licensee. The license restrictions requires the licensee to prohibit one individual from any involvement in the operation or management of the business, or to provide any services to the business, and not be on the licensed premises at any time. The licensee and their employees are also required to complete additional Cannabis Tracking System (CTS) training and to put in place protocols to ensure better CTS compliance.

Reopening Oregon Guidance for OLCC Recreational Marijuana Licensees

Following Governor Brown’s announcement that the State of Oregon is re-opening for business, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is providing a status update to the temporary and permanent rules and processes put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Kate Brown issued Executive Order 21-15 on June 25, 2021. Subject to limited exceptions, effective June 30, 2021, EO 21-15 rescinded the risk-level framework that placed operational restrictions on many different sectors, including OLCC licensed recreational marijuana businesses.

In response to restrictions placed on licensed businesses during the pandemic, the OLCC created allowances or exceptions to certain requirements to provide flexibility to businesses operating under the restrictions. The OLCC recognizes that there will be a period of transition as licensees reconfigure their businesses now that COVID restrictions have been lifted.

The COVID-19 Business Continuity page on the OLCC website has now been changed to ‘Reopening Oregon Resources.” The information in the table below can also be found here on the Business Continuity Information – Marijuana section under the “Reopening Oregon Resources” tab.

 

Allowance/Change Allowance expiration date Information
Curbside Delivery No expiration – will be discussed in a formal Rules Advisory Committee, including the allowance for walk-up/drive-up sales.  845-025-2885
Pre-licensing Inspections No expiration.  845-025-1090
Accepting expired ID’s – Grace period for ID’s that have been expired for 6 months or less. 12/31/2021  Following guidance from  Governor’s Office, Oregon State Police and Department of Motor Vehicles.

HB 2137 Moratorium Memo

Appointments for payment of licensing fees or violations No expiration.  See below for details
Certain packaging and Labeling Fees

 

TBD   845-025-1060 (8)(e)

845-025-1060(8)(f)

Allowance to work with a marijuana worker permit completed application and completed test 12/31/2021   See below for details

 

In-person payments for licensing fees or administrative violation fines at the OLCC:

The OLCC is still taking license and violation payments in person, in order to make a payment in person you must call the OLCC at 503-872-5151 to schedule an appointment.

If a licensee prefers, they may send a money order or a check. Please note that the OLCC will not approve the payment for 21 days to ensure that the check is valid.

For licensing actions that require payment the licensee may also submit their payment using a credit card through the online licensing portal. All other payments need to be check or money order mailed to the OLCC at 9079 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie, Oregon 97222. The check or money order must contain documentation so it is clear who the payment is coming from and what it is for.Examples of the kind of payments include but are not limited to: Worker permits, change of ownership and fingerprints payments.

Marijuana Worker Permits:

We will be continuing to allow applicants to work on an application until December 31, 2021 if the conditions outlined below are met.

  • ​​​Have an approved and active marijuana worker permit;
  • ​Have taken the marijuana worker permit test and submitted their marijuana worker permit application in the NIC/OLCC system https://www.oregon.gov/olcc/marijuana/Pages/mjworkerpermit.aspx prior to working for a licensed OLCC recreational marijuana business.

Please note: Once an application has been approved, the applicant will be notified that the permit application is in Ready for Pay status and will have 30 days to pay the permit fee per OAR 845-025-5520 (4). If payment is not received the application shall be considered incomplete and inactivated. Once inactivated, the worker permit application is not eligible to be used as meeting the above condition to work for an OLCC recreational marijuana licensed business. The applicant will need to reapply.

Should additional information to process a worker permit application be needed in order to complete the application, the applicant will have 30 days from the date of OLCC’s request to provide additional information and/or complete any outstanding action request corrections. Failure to complete the corrections or provide the requested additional information within 30 days from the request shall result in the application being considered incomplete and will be inactivated. Once inactivated, the worker permit application is not eligible to be used as meeting the above condition to work for an OLCC recreational marijuana licensed business. The applicant will need to reapply.