One Cannabis Regulatory Agency? What does a joint system look like?

What does a joint OHA/OLCC system look like?

There has been every indication that the Oregon Legislature is seriously considering shifting all of the regulatory power to one agency. That agency might be the OLCC or some sort of newly formed Cannabis Commission. Not one group or organization can take credit for this idea as it has been floated by (almost) all of the varying industry groups over the years. The Oregonian wrote an editorial about it and Legislators have been discussing and pitching this idea in varying iterations since HB 3460 was implemented. The question stands- is this a good idea and, if it is, what does this look like?

There is really no question that OHA is overwhelmed by their regulatory burden. While some might think they are behaving maliciously, my perspective is that they were given too much, were required to engage in rapid implementation and that regulating an entire commercial market is completely out of their purview. That does not excuse the understaffing or serious delays but those things are complicated and intertwined with funding and resource allocation.

There is also not question that it appears OLCC has had a more orderly roll out. I will be the first to point out though that they have had much more time to build the adult use program and, even with that time, they have only licensed 19% of the applicants (274 out of 1406). We have also not seen what enforcement from OLCC will look like and if any of you have ever worked with them on the alcohol side you know that there are a number of potential pitfalls.

Let’s leave, for now, Oregon Department of Agriculture out of this since we really have no idea what their enforcement process will look like.

So, what are the pros and cons of a joint system? I also want to be very candid that I support this concept personally even though the devil is in the details.


-       Regulatory simplicity. Duh, right? Anyone who has been trying to work through this duplicative licensing, reporting and enforcement process would be totally thankful for just one agency.

-       Comprehensive rules that would allow licensees to serve every market all of the time.

-       Agency accountability would be much easier instead of each being able to point the finger the other direction.

-       Potential easing of the rules for medical growers and increased access to the adult use market. The Legislators and agencies could build a system that allows all grower/processor participants access to adult use stores with the regulatory hoops being lowered for OLCC and raised for medical folks.


-       UGH. Starting over for people. I, for one, would love to have a couple years of regulatory stability. That would not be the outcome if a new agency is created or if everyone under OHA has to transition.

-       There are many out there concerned that that this state has entirely lost sight of patients and that somehow merging the systems would negatively impact patients. I suspect that once OHA got back to just issuing cards patients would be happier but I understand the alternative perspective.

-       The optics are potentially terrible and it could certainly look like Oregon was “killing the medical program” just like in Washington. And, doing so in Washington has had awful consequences

I have no doubt, not even for one second, that this is on the table for the next legislative session. Like each one I have participated in I am certain that this proposal will come with high emotions and a million perspectives.