On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, a Rules Advisory Committee (RAC) of the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission (OLCC) had its first meeting to discuss amendments to the administrative rules governing licensed marijuana businesses. Specifically, the RAC met to discuss new, proposed rules that would reclassify marijuana violations.
This post discusses some of the proposed reclassification rules. Licensees and the public are invited to observe RAC meetings, and the OLCC later will hold public hearings and provide a two week comment period to gain additional perspectives on the proposed changes (schedule is updated here). This post discusses some of the proposed new rules reclassifying marijuana violations, which you can find here.
One of the proposed rule changes would eliminate current OAR 845-025-1115(1)(c)(C). The broader rule governs when the OLCC must deny an initial or renewal application. The section proposed for elimination provides the OLCC must deny an initial or renewal application if the proposed license premises is:
“At the same location as a producer, retailer, processor, wholesaler, or laboratory license, unless the licenses are of different types and all of the licenses at the location are held or sought by identical applicants. For the purpose of this paragraph, ‘at the same location’ means that any area of the proposed licensed premises is within the licensed premises of another license.”
With the elimination of this language, present license holders and new applicants would have greater business flexibility in structuring the marijuana licenses at their properties. This is a welcome change.
The OLCC also proposes to add explicit provisions requiring the denial of an initial or renewal application if the applicant has diverted marijuana to the interstate market or has operated as a hemp grower and grown cannabis presumptively found to be marijuana under OAR 845-026-4100. These changes clearly reflect Oregon’s recent focus on illicit marijuana grows throughout the state and the alleged use of hemp licenses to engage in marijuana growing.
Change in location
The OLCC proposes significant changes to OAR 845-025-1180, which governs Changes in Location and classifies violations of this rule as a Category II violation. Generally the proposed rule clarifies the process for changes of location restates that a licensee may not begin engaging in activity requiring a license until the OLCC approves the change of location request.
Among the (welcomed) proposed changes is the explicit classification or reclassification of the category of violation for breaking a particular rule. Currently, each rule did not include an express description of what category of violation a breach would fall under. The proposed rules would include an express provision in nearly every rule that identifies what category (I through V) a violation would fall in. This is an excellent example of amending the rules to provide clarity to licensees.
Another significant re-write is to the rules governing product recalls. The proposed changes give the OLCC greater authority to issue product recalls and focus on health an safety. The proposed changes also require the OLCC to identify the reasons for the recall and offer guidance as to how a licensee must conduct the recall.
In terms of the big picture of the reclassification of penalties for licensees are the following:
- The OLCC would expressly reserve the right to sanction producer licensees by imposing civil penalties without the option of suspension;
- The rules would provide that the OLCC may use a standard 30 percent reduction in penalties during the settlement process. A licensees good faith effort to prevent a violation may only reduce the penalty by 3 percent and cooperation may reduce the penalty by 5 percent. Self-reporting may reduce the penalty by 7 percent and other efforts by 2 percent.
- When the licensee or applicant was not personally involved or aware of the violation occurring. This mitigation factor reduces the penalty by a total of 10 percent.
- In terms of aggravating factors, various aggravating factors may increase the presumptive penalty by certain percentages.
For more on OLCC regulations, penalty classification and litigation, check out the following posts: