On Friday, February 2, 2018, a highly anticipated Oregon Marijuana Summit was held in the Jury Assembly Room of the United States Courthouse in downtown Portland. The Summit was called by Billy Williams, the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, and follows on the heels of the revocation of the Cole Memo by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Revocation of that memo restored full prosecutorial discretion to United States Attorneys with regard to enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
Mr. Williams invited key stakeholders from around the state to attend the summit, including legislators, law enforcement, the marijuana industry, negatively impacted landowners, and more. Also invited were United States Attorneys from seven other states. Josephine County Commissioners Dan DeYoung and Lily Morgan and Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Henderson were present and participated in the discussion, as was AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett, who was asked to provide a presentation about some of the ongoing challenges with the industry.
Right from the start, Mr. Williams made it clear that the massive overproduction and diversion problem in Oregon was something that had to be addressed. During his presentation, Mr. Bovett discussed the Southern Oregon Marijuana Initiative, which would allow five Southern Oregon counties to ask their voters for authority to impose a marijuana production tax to support enforcement services needed to address the marijuana black market. The industry conceded that diversion, as well as land use conflicts, are significant problems that need substantial enforcement funding, but strongly opposes the Initiative. The industry did not offer any alternate source for enforcement funding, although Representative Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass) did urge that the 40 percent marijuana tax distribution to schools be redirected for that purpose. Mr. Bovett worked with Representative Wilson on such legislation in 2017, but it failed to garner support, and was strongly opposed by schools.
Mr. Williams indicated that he would see what came out of the 2018 legislative session before deciding what actions to take next.
Mr. Bovett will continue to work with legislators and stakeholders on solutions to the ongoing challenges identified at the summit.
Contributed by: Rob Bovett | AOC Legal Counsel
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