The Oregon Senate passed a landmark bill on Wednesday that would let the governor make agreements with other states to provide for the exportation and importation of marijuana products across state lines—but it will only go into effect if the federal government changes its own policies to allow such activity.
Oregon senators approved the legislation in a 19 to 9 vote, and it now heads to the House.
Producers, wholesalers and researchers would be able to take cannabis across state lines if the government forges an agreement with the receiving state. There would also be requirements related to the health, safety and labeling standards, and the products would have to be tracked.
Any marijuana coming into Oregon would have to be tested and meet the state’s quality control standards.
— OR Senate Democrats (@ORSenDemocrats) May 15, 2019
“Oregon is a trailblazer, and this is another way that we can lead the nation regarding this relatively new legal industry,” Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D), the bill’s chief sponsor, said in a press release. “Several states have legalized cannabis and so this puts Oregon in a great position to enter into agreements with other states, if and when the day comes that interstate cannabis trade is allowed by federal law.”
“With the passage of Senate Bill 582, Oregon will be ahead of the game in this burgeoning industry,” he said.
Currently, federal law strictly prohibits marijuana from being introduced into interstate commerce. Stopping cannabis products from crossing state lines was one of several federal enforcement priorities included in an Obama-era Justice Department memo aimed at reducing federal intervention in local marijuana laws.
In the event that the federal government does change cannabis laws to allow interstate commerce, or issues a new memo stating that it wouldn’t prosecute such activity, the legislation could be particularly helpful to Oregon’s marijuana market, which is struggling with an oversupply of cannabis. Being able to export some of that extra product could alleviate the problem.
Industry representatives in the state celebrated the bill’s passage out of the Senate.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but today’s Senate vote is a major step forward for the future of Oregon’s cannabis industry—and in securing our position as the country’s leading cannabis exporter” Casey Houlihan, executive director of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association (ORCA), said in a press release.
Gov. Kate Brown (D) has indicated that she is supportive of the legislative effort, saying in February that lawmakers are “trying to make sure that Oregon is well-placed in terms of the industry if and when—I would say when—the federal government moves forward.”
That said, Brown said her immediate focus was on ensuring that cannabis businesses have access to financial institutions first—something that may see some congressional action following a favorable House committee vote on a bipartisan marijuana banking bill.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.