Marijuana was a big focus of the 2015 legislative session. Five bills wound their way through the process. Somewhat surprisingly, a sixth died on the Senate floor just before the Legislature adjourned. Here is the current status of the five pieces of 2015 Oregon marijuana legislation that have passed both the Senate and House:
* House Bill 3400: The large omnibus bill, is enacted and operative. AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett asked the Governor to sign it prior to July 1, 2015, to avoid some practical problems for law enforcement. The Governor did so, and also issued a signing statement.
* House Bill 2041: The retail taxation companion bill to HB 3400. It passed both the House and Senate, and is on its way to the Governor.
* Senate Bill 460 : Provides for “early start” of retail sales of limited marijuana products through medical marijuana dispensaries, beginning October 1, 2015. It passed both the Senate and House, and is on its way to the Governor.
* Senate Bill 844: Makes miscellaneous changes, including a research task force. It passed both the Senate and House, and is on its way to the Governor.
* Senate Joint Memorial 12: Asks Congress to declassify marijuana, so impediments to research and banking can be addressed. Copies will be sent to the President, Congressional leadership, and the Oregon Congressional delegation.
Mr. Bovett has created an updated one-page (two-sided) summary of all the marijuana legislation. In addition to the local time/place/manner, land use, and local taxation provisions, HB 3400 also contains the local marijuana business opt out provisions. In addition, SB 460, which provides for early start of retail sales through medical marijuana dispensaries, has its own separate local opt out. Mr. Bovett has already received requests for sample ordinances as to the various opt out options, so he sent a first draft out on the County Counsel list serve yesterday, July 6.
The last minute marijuana surprise was the failure of House Bill 2668 on the Senate floor. HB 2668 was a compromise bill to deal with cross-pollination between industrial hemp and marijuana. This is a big issue in Southern Oregon, where industrial hemp can virtually destroy nearby marijuana crops. The bill would have imposed a moratorium on further industrial hemp licensing until March 1, 2017, and funded research by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University. The bill failed on the Senate floor by a vote of 11 to 19.
Another question that continues to arise relates to personnel policies in light of marijuana legalization. Tamara Jones, Pre-Loss Attorney with City/County Insurance Services (CIS), has graciously provided the following:
Now that the recreational marijuana law is in effect, employers should review their existing drug/alcohol use policies and determine whether they clearly prohibit employees from: (1) Coming to work in an impaired or “high” state; and/or (2) Using marijuana during off-duty hours and having a detectable amount of THC (marijuana) in their system, even if they are not impaired (also known as a “zero tolerance” policy). Although the new marijuana law did not give marijuana users any employment law protections, the courts (and the attorneys who want to represent your employees) will be looking closely at your drug/alcohol use policy to determine whether any discipline or termination issued to a marijuana-using employee was consistent with your policy. Most employers do not need to change existing policy language to reflect the employer’s culture and views towards marijuana, even if it is now legal in Oregon. For those employers who discover at this late date that they are not, in fact, “zero tolerance” employers but wish to be, they should consult with counsel about the timing and process for implementing a new or significantly updated policy in both union and union-free workplaces.
AOC Legal Counsel Rob Bovett is our resident expert on marijuana legislation.