Oregon May Declare Emergency Over Jeff Sessions’ Marijuana Threats

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Oregon isn’t taking a “wait and see” approach to the mixed messages coming out of the White House on marijuana — the state is taking direct action to protect the private information of its medical cannabis patients and adult use consumers.

Oregon has moved closer to shielding consumers in its adult use and medical markets from the threat of federal enforcement and is considering declaring an emergency due to that threat.

Senate Bill 863, which passed on earlier in the week, would prohibit cannabis retailers from recording, retaining and transferring type of information that is contained on passport, driver license, military identification card or other ID that bears picture of person. It would also create exceptions for retailers, who, with the consumer’s permission, want to collect data for marketing programs.

Collecting this sort of data is common practice, typically at dispensaries across the nation, never mind Oregon. But for the sake of protecting consumers, SB 863 requires marijuana retailers to destroy the type of information covered within 30 days of Governor Kate Brown signing off on the bill.

While all admirable goals with the current climate, the most surprising part of bill was Section 4, which stated on passage of the bill that Oregon would declare an emergency in the face of threats of federal enforcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Oregon cannabiz expert, Sam Chapman, runs a Portland based firm focused on advising entrepreneurs and investors in the cannabis industry — New Economy Consulting. In 2013 Chapman co-authored House Bill 3460, the Oregon law that legalized medical pot dispensaries. He currently serves on the Oregon Liquor Control Commission Business Rules Advisory Committee and the City of Portland Marijuana Task Force.

We reached out to Chapman for his take on the bill.

“It was an immediate knee jerk reaction to some of the newer quasi-confusing statements that came from Jeff Sessions,” he said. “I think outside of just wanting to protect general adult use consumers, there was a concern to protect patients information as well.”

Chapman did note his doubts on whether the feds would target consumers, and added that, on the medical side, patient card numbers still go through the full process as required by the Oregon Health Authority, “so it’s not bulletproof.”

Chapman said he hopes that other bills in the Oregon legislature will get the same fast track treatment that SB 863 has enjoyed.

“It’s further along than any other bill and it just got introduced last week (March 7),” he said with a laugh. “That’s just life I guess.”

One of Chapman’s clients was concerned about the effect the bill would have on their ability to do online marketing — despite the protections being included for those who wish to do it in a straightforward way — and wanted to hire Chapman to push back against the bill,

“I was like, ‘We’ve got bigger battles to worry about — find someone else,” Chapman said. “It’s going to pass unanimously. You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to testify against that bill.”

Mason Tvert, director of communications at The Marijuana Policy Project, said things are still hazy around the administration’s intentions, but it’s always good to be prepared.

“It is still unclear whether the new administration intends to interfere with laws such as Oregon’s, but it certainly does not hurt to adopt such a measure,” he said. “In either case, it sends a pretty clear message that lawmakers do not want the federal government messing with their state’s cannabis laws or with the citizens who comply with them… understandably, they prefer adults purchase weed from these tightly regulated businesses rather than reverting back to a potentially dangerous underground market.”

Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, pointed out that consumers of other markets never having to deal with this kind of thing period.

“Given Attorney General Jeff Sessions militant prohibitionist background and the false claims he has been making about pot recently, the concerns regarding the privacy of cannabis consumers in Oregon is justified,” he said. “Nowhere in this nation catalogues the purchase of cigarettes or tobacco, so why should adult-use marijuana be any different?”

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