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The Oregon Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would allow recreational marijuana stores to sell tax-free medical marijuana to patients.
Senate Bill 1511 also would allow people 21 and older to buy marijuana-infused edibles and concentrates during the state’s so-called early sales program.
The bill, which now heads to the House, is one of several key policy changes the Legislature has made to the state’s medical and recreational marijuana programs during its 35-day session, which began earlier this month.
A bill that removes a two-year residency requirement for marijuana license holders passed the House and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Tuesday’s vote was delayed by Senate Republicans who argued that the bill’s inclusion of an emergency clause coupled with a provision that regulates revenue violates the Oregon Constitution. They asked that the bill be referred back to the joint legislative committee overseeing marijuana legalization bills so the emergency clause — which would put the bill into effect immediately with the governor’s signature — could be removed.
“This is another symptom of this short session,” said Sen. Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass. “We all feel pressure to just move on, no matter if we are in doubt or not.”
After conferring with Mark Mayer, deputy legislative counsel, about the legality of the bill’s language, Senate leaders moved ahead. The bill passed 18-10 along party lines.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, co-chair of the joint committee, said the bill, which gives recreational shops the go-ahead to sell to patients, strikes a balance between the needs of the emerging recreational market and sick people who rely on the drug to cope with their symptoms.
She highlighted a recent Oregon Health Authority survey of that showed a vast majority of dispensaries plan to pivot to the recreational market, a shift that has worried medical marijuana patients and advocates. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees recreational marijuana regulation, is expected to launch sales later this year.
The bill also expands the products people 21 and older may purchase from dispensaries before the liquor commission assumes control of recreational sales. For now, those sales are limited to flower, seeds and young marijuana plants. SB 1511 expands those options to include concentrates and edibles.
The joint legislative committee on Tuesday also voted on a separate bill, Senate Bill 1598, which makes it easier for some medical marijuana growers to enter the regulated recreational market.
The bill would allow certain growers to apply for a state recreational marijuana license without having to first obtain a land-use compatibility statement. Those statements are issued by local governments and confirm that a marijuana production site meets local zoning rules.
Under current law, all marijuana producers applying for an Oregon Liquor Control Commission license must get a land-use statement.
The proposed legislation removes that requirement for small-scale marijuana growers located outside of city limits, provided they were registered with the Oregon Health Authority before Jan. 1, 2015.
The provision is intended to help bring smaller growers into the regulated recreational marijuana system through a so-called micro-canopy license, which would come with lower fees and fewer requirements.
Senate Bill 1598 also adds medical and research marijuana grows as recognized farm crops, making them easier to locate in exclusive farm use areas and protecting them from lawsuits filed by neighbors over perceived nuisances like odor and noise.
Recreational marijuana grow sites are already recognized as farm crops under state law. The proposed legislation also makes clear that local governments can impose “reasonable” time, place, and manner regulations on those marijuana operations.
The bill also:
— Clarifies that home medical marijuana grows aren’t subject to inspection by the Oregon Health Authority.
— Creates a sub-category of dispensaries for nonprofits. These establishments would be allowed to accept excess marijuana from growers and sell to patients for little or no cost.
— Requires the health authority to study medical marijuana access in areas underserved by dispensaries and retailers once the state’s regulated marijuana industry is off the ground.