OUR BLOG

HEAR AWESOME STORIES HERE
image title

On June 29, 2017, Governor Brown signed a bill impacting Oregon’s hemp industry into law.  SB 1015, which goes into effect the first week of October 2017, amends Oregon’s industrial hemp statute and significantly increases the industry’s access to the commercial market.

Industrial Hemp

In 2009, the Legislature gave the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) the authority to license industrial hemp growers and handlers.  Since ODA issued the first hemp licenses in 2015, hundreds of growers and handlers have entered this new potentially lucrative market. Industrial hemp is a cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent tetrahyrdrocannabinol (THC).  Traditionally used to create fiber, fuel, and fabric, contemporary research reveals that hemp also contains cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound linked to several medical benefits (e.g. Charlotte’s Web, anti-inflammatory, epilepsy treatment, etc.).

Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 571.305, makes industrial hemp production, possession, and commercial activities legal in the state of Oregon.  Current state law categorizes industrial hemp as an “agricultural product” subject to regulation by ODA.  A “grower” produces and cultivates industrial hemp, while a “handler” receives industrial hemp for processing into commodities or products. All growers and handlers must have an ODA-issued industrial hemp license.

Formerly, Chapter 571 did not provide a way for licensed industrial hemp growers and handlers to transfer their hemp products to OLCC processors.  SB 1015, now specifically allows these transfers.

The bill’s major provisions include:

Industrial Hemp Concentrates and Extracts Defined

SB 1015’s definitions of “industrial hemp concentrate” and “industrial hemp extract” mirror those of cannabis concentrates and extracts found in the rules governing medical and recreational cannabis (OAR 845-025-1015).

Delivery of Industrial Hemp Products to OLCC Processors

SB 1015 allows an ODA-licensed industrial hemp grower to deliver industrial hemp to an OLCC-licensed processor.  Also, the measure allows a state-registered industrial hemp handler to deliver industrial hemp concentrates and extracts to an OLCC-licensed processor.  The following restrictions apply:

  • Industrial hemp growers, handlers, and marijuana processors seeking to engage in processing industrial hemp into CBD concentrates and extracts must be registered with OLCC for that express purpose.
  • Growers and handlers must provide recipient cannabis processors with all results of any required tests conducted on the industrial hemp and the processor must retain those test results.
  • Growers, handlers, and cannabis processors must track industrial hemp products using the same CTS tracking system (i.e. Metrc) currently in place for all cannabis businesses in the state.
  • Deliveries must be conducted in a manner that satisfies the delivery requirements currently in place for all cannabis businesses in the state.

Processing of Industrial Hemp Products

Upon receiving industrial hemp products, a cannabis processor may process the hemp into industrial hemp concentrates and extracts (like CBD oil).  The processor may also use the industrial hemp products to supplement their own marijuana products, but only if that product meets existing processing requirements.  This would allow processors to infuse purely hemp-derived CBD into their extracts and concentrates, opening new opportunities for innovation and product development.

Retail Sale of Industrial Hemp Products by Individuals

Any person may make retail sales of industrial hemp products and commodities if the processing method used complies with Oregon law.  This levels the playing field for in-state industrial hemp manufacturers and businesses competing with out-of-state importers.

Please keep in mind that the federal government’s position is constantly evolving in addition to our state regulatory structure.  If you have any questions regarding SB 1015 or any other hemp-related issue, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our compliance attorneys and keep an eye out for more of our blog updates on our website!

Continue Reading
image title

Just days before the end of the 2017 session, the Oregon legislature passed a major cannabis-related bill.  Surviving a relatively close Senate vote last Thursday, HB 2198 now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Please see the bill’s key provisions below:

Oregon Cannabis Commission

The Oregon Cannabis Commission (OCC) within the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), will consist of a Public Health Officer and eight other commissioners appointed by the Governor.  The OCC will provide guidance and oversight on a broad range of issues impacting the medical marijuana industry, including recommending a governance framework for the future of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP).  Additionally, the Commission will develop a long-term strategic plan to maintain the medical marijuana program’s viability as more medical growers move into the recreational system.

Limited Transfer of Medical Marijuana into OLCC System

A medical marijuana grow site with more than twelve plants may transfer up to twenty pounds of marijuana a year to licensed recreational marijuana processors and wholesalers.  However, the medical grower must have registered their grow site with OHA prior to the date the Governor signs the bill into law.  These transfers must be tracked in OLCC’s tracking system.  The OLCC will also assess whether the amount of marijuana transferred from medical grow sites to wholesalers and processors per year can be increased without adversely affecting the market.

If the OLCC determines that the supply of marijuana exceeds consumer demand, it may issue a temporary order to limit the sale of marijuana items into the recreational system. These temporary orders may only be issued if the OLCC determines that the saturation of the market will not self-correct.

Mature Plant Limits

The mature plant limits previously in place under SB 1057 have been slightly increased. Now, the maximum amount of mature plants allowed at a property not registered as a marijuana grow site (such as private residences where patients are growing their own marijuana) is twelve plants.  These are limited to up to six plants per patient.

Also, if there is only one patient and at least one more person above the age of twenty-one living at the address, the mature plant limit for the entire household is ten plants.  That cap is based on a patient’s six plant limit under the OMMP program, in addition to up to four plants permitted for a non-patient adult living at the household. This provision clarifies questions related to “stacking” both medical and personal-use recreational marijuana plants at the same residence.

Immature Plant Limits

The new bill also replaced SB 1057’s immature plant restrictions for medical grow sites.  A medical grow site may now have an unlimited number of immature plants under twenty-four inches.  Two immature plants taller than twenty-four inches will be allowed for every mature marijuana plant on the grow site.  For example, if a grow site has twelve mature plants, up to twenty-four (24) immature plants over twenty-four (24) inches would be permitted.

Caregiver Privileges

Designated primary caregivers are now clearly allowed to help patients with all things related to medical-use, including the production and processing of marijuana into concentrates or products (but not extracts).  This clarifies the legal relationship between cardholders and their designated primary caregivers and will hopefully allow for patients less familiar with production and processing to fully benefit from their caregiver’s skills and knowledge.

Security System Exemption

OHA and OLCC may not require a medical marijuana grow site to use a security system, video surveillance, alarms, and sensors or physical barriers. This should ease concerns that medical patients and their caregivers might be forced to bear the high cost of installing the types of security systems required of recreational licensees.  However, anyone growing marijuana plants at home must still keep all plants out of the public’s view.

OHA Grow Site Registration

For the purposes of verifying the address of a marijuana grow site, OHA shall accept tax lot numbers, assessor’s maps, or exact locations using latitude/longitude coordinates, GPS, or township coordinates.  This gives patients and caregivers more options with respect to the documents they can provide to satisfy grow site verification requirements and will hopefully simplify the process of grow site registration.

Distance to Schools

If the OLCC determines there is a physical or geographic barrier preventing children from traveling to a marijuana retail location, a marijuana retailer premises may be located within 500-1000 feet of a school.  Until now, local governments decided whether to grant exceptions to the distance requirement.  HB 2198 delegates that authority to the OLCC exclusively.

Because this bill contains an emergency clause, it will take effect on the date the governor signs it. Absent a veto, this will likely be early next week.  If you have any questions about the changes included in this bill or any other compliance-related issues, please contact one of our compliance attorneys.

Continue Reading
image title

The Oregon Legislative Assembly adjourned on Friday, July 7, 2017.   As the dust from this session settles, the State of Oregon will begin implementing several substantial changes to its marijuana regulations.  SB 1057, SB 56, HB 2198 and SB 1015 are the main bills passed during the legislative session.  We will be posting a three-part series this week summarizing the bills.

SB 1057, is the most comprehensive measure the legislature enacted related to cannabis.  Among other things, this measure expands the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s (“OLCC”) authority to regulate parts of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (“OMMP”), creates marijuana promotional events, and revamps the existing “bump-up” canopy option for recreational producers who elect to serve medical patients.

Please see a summary of the key provisions below:

Tracking Requirements for OMMP Patients

The new law requires certain OMMP registrants to track the production, transfer, and processing of medical marijuana with OLCC’s existing tracking system.  Registered grow sites with more than twelve plants, processing sites, and dispensaries (“Registrants”) must use the tracking system. To cover extra costs incurred by the tracking system, the Oregon Health Authority (“OHA”) will impose an additional fee on Registrants.  OHA must deposit the money collected from the fees into the Marijuana Control and Regulation Fund.

Registrants will have the option to choose to remain OHA Registrants subject to tracking or to convert to OLCC (recreational) licensees.  Each Registrant must notify OHA whether they are electing to apply for OLCC licensure or remain under the medical system by December 1, 2017.  If the Registrant elects to apply for OLCC licensure, they must do so on or before January 1, 2018, or it will not be able to renew its OHA registration.

If the Registrant elects to remain within the medical system, the law requires them to submit to the OLCC tracking system on or before July 1, 2018.  Failure to comply with the tracking requirements by this deadline will bar OHA registration renewal.

Immature Plant Limits

SB 1057 provides that medical cardholders and designated primary caregivers may jointly possess up to twelve immature plants and up to six mature plants at a residence.  The law also allows for two immature plants for every one mature plant allowed at a designated marijuana grow site.  If a designated medical grow site is located within the city limits of an area zoned for residential use, the law allows growing up to twelve mature plants and twenty-four immature plants.  However, HB 2198, currently awaiting the Governor’s signature alters these limits.

*Note: Under subsequently passed SB 56, if a designated medical grower submitted an OLCC producer application on or before June 24, 2017, they will not be subjected to the immature plant limits established under SB 1057.

Exclusively Medical Licenses

In response to indications that potential changes in federal marijuana policy are less likely to affect medical marijuana programs, SB 1057 allows the OLCC to designate licensees as “exclusively medical licensees.”  Licensees may register with the OLCC as exclusively medical licensees if certain conditions are met, such as attesting to transfer products only between other licensees with “medical purpose” registrations.

Bump-Up Canopies

This provision modifies the OLCC’s current bump-up canopy program (which allows OLCC-licensed producers to enter into agreements with patients to provide them medical marijuana from separately designated medical canopy space).  Under the new provision, OLCC-licensed marijuana producers may apply to designate up to an additional 10 percent of the total size of their medical and recreational canopy square footage to produce marijuana for medical patients. Marijuana producers who elect this option must provide seventy-five percent of the marijuana produced from the additional canopy space to OHA-registered patients for free.  Also, the OLCC will no longer require patient/producer agreements. As an incentive to add medical canopy, the OLCC will allow producers to sell the remaining twenty-five percent to other licensees.  As the recreational system continues to attract medical growers, this option is designed to ensure that medical patients continue to receive medication free of charge.

Marijuana Promotional Events

Under certain conditions, SB 1057 allows OLCC licensees to exhibit marijuana items at trade shows (such as the Oregon State Fair and similar events).  Although live immature plants were already displayed at the 2016 Oregon State Fair, this provision allows participating licensees to exhibit all types of marijuana items.

The OLCC has already adopted a temporary rule implementing this provision.  The rule, effective until at least December 27, 2017, dictates the specific conditions under which organizers may conduct these events.  These conditions include the following:

  • The designation of an “event organizer,” who is responsible for ensuring that all licensee participants adhere to OLCC’s rules and restrictions regarding the event.
  • Promotional event applications must be submitted by event organizers in writing at least twenty-eight days before the event date.
  • All the marijuana items transported and displayed must be tracked in OLCC’s cannabis tracking system (“CTS”) and immediately returned to the licensed premises following the event.
  • Each marijuana item is required to have the item’s associated Universal Identification (“UID”) tag affixed to the item or its package.
  • Participants and organizers must prevent minors from accessing the marijuana items during these events.
  • Events may not be held at a licensed premises or in a city/county that has prohibited recreational marijuana businesses.

*Note: Industrial hemp products may not be displayed at these events.

Increased Authority for OLCC Regulatory Specialists

In addition to OLCC personnel’s existing right to conduct inspections and investigations, the law grants OLCC regulatory specialists additional powers to make seizures and aid in the criminal prosecution of licensees. This broader authority is intended to prevent marijuana diversion into the black market. The OLCC may also proceed with investigations or disciplinary actions against licensees regardless of whether their licenses have lapsed, been revoked, or suspended.  Applicants who withdraw their application or renewals may also be subjected to these disciplinary actions.

There are limitations to OLCC’s authority, however. OLCC may not inspect/investigate medical cardholders, primary caregivers, or the residences and locations where cardholders and their caregivers produce marijuana.  The law prohibits OLCC regulatory specialists from acting in the capacity of a federal official, carrying a gun, and from conducting inspections of unlicensed primary residences.  These provisions bring the state regulatory program further in line with the Cole Memo’s federal enforcement priorities.

Financial Disclosure

OLCC may now require persons with a “financial interest” in a licensed recreational marijuana business to submit sworn statements to the OLCC that show the person’s name and address, as well as the nature and extent of their financial interest.  OLCC has already released application forms that require persons with a financial interest to disclose their home addresses. We previously discussed the nuances of this requirement and how it affects applicants and licensees in our April 4, 2017 blog post found here.

Labeling Duties Transferred to OLCC

On January 1, 2018, OLCC will assume responsibility for adopting and enforcing labeling requirements formerly under OHA’s purview.  Until OLCC creates new rules, the labeling and packaging requirements remain as is under OAR 845-025-7000 to 845-025-7060 and OAR 333-007-0010 to 333-007-0100.

OHA Database

SB 1057 requires OHA to establish, maintain, and operate an electronic database for storing certain patient and marijuana grow site registry information to increase efficiency between agencies responsible for administering the OMMP. While OLCC and the Department of Revenue will be allowed to access the database, the stored information is confidential and may not be publicly disclosed.  The law does not require OHA to store information related to patients’ debilitating conditions.  Patients’ and Registrants’ contact information will also be confidential unless the information is related to a designated grow site’s location.

We are carefully monitoring developments as the OLCC implements these changes.  In the meantime, remember to always stay tuned to our Facebook and blog updates!

Continue Reading
image title

Today, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed SB 56 into law. This law is effective immediately and contains several anticipated fixes to the current cannabis regulatory scheme.

On May 30, 2017, SB 1057 was signed into law by the Governor and became effective immediately.  SB 1057 made significant changes to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), including limiting the number of plants to six mature plants and twelve or fewer immature plants per patient.  Previous plant limits were six mature plants per patient and an unlimited number of immature plants. The timing of SB 1057 created a significant timing issue for medical growers, particularly outdoor growers, currently operating under the OMMP and in the process of applying for recreational production licenses with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). Among other things, SB 56 provides relief from the newly implemented immature plant limits under SB 1057 for medical growers who have applied for their OLCC producer license.  Specifically the bill expressly states that the new plant limits do not apply, except as provided by OLCC rule, to a premises for which an OLCC application has been made on or before the effective date of SB 56, June 23, 2017.

We previously summarized this and some of the other key changes made by SB 56 in our post from June 21, 2017.

If you have any questions regarding SB 56 or any other compliance issue, don’t hesitate to contact one of our compliance attorneys and remember to stay tuned to our blog updates for more up-to-date information on changes to Oregon cannabis laws!

Continue Reading
image title

Today, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 56, which contains several of the anticipated “fixes” to the cannabis regulatory scheme currently in place.

SB 56, carried by Representative Fahey (D – District 14 – West Eugene and Junction City), includes the “Dash 39” amendments adopted by the Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation which provides, among other things, relief from the newly implemented immature plant limits for those who submit a producer license application to the OLCC on or before the effective date.

Although SB 56 currently awaits the governor’s signature to take effect, here are some of the key changes you can expect to occur:

Immature marijuana plant limits. The bill exempts OMMP growers who submit their OLCC producer applications on or before the measure’s effective date from OMMP immature plant limits. Current law sets OMMP immature plant limits at twelve (12) plants. This is an important fix for growers intending to transfer their medical plants into the OLCC program.

Immediate suspension of license for suspected diversion. OLCC may restrict, suspend, or refuse to renew a license if the OLCC has probable cause to conclude the licensee has sold, stored, or transferred marijuana in a manner not permitted by its license.

Processing by small producers. OLCC-licensed Micro Tier I and Micro Tier II recreational marijuana producers may process marijuana into cannabinoid concentrates using two specified methods: (1) a mechanical process (i.e., keif sieves, silk screens, etc.) and (2) an extraction process using water as the solvent (i.e., ice water hash, bubble bags, etc.).

Transfer of product between retail locations. SB 56 allows a licensed marijuana retailer to transfer product from one retail location to another if the destination retail location is “owned by the same or substantially the same persons.” Although “substantially the same” is not defined in the bill, we expect the OLCC will provide further guidance on the matter.  Note: these transfers are subject to OLCC rules governing transportation of marijuana items.

Verification of lawful activity hotline. Until now, it was difficult for government officials to determine whether a farm was a registered marijuana grow site or OLCC licensed producer premises. This provision requires that the OLCC and OHA create a telephone hotline to inform inquiring city, county, and Water Resources Department representatives, or a district water-master, as to whether a farm is a registered medical grow site, an OLCC licensed producer premises, or a site for which a registration or license has been applied for.

Exclusively medical licensees. Previous legislation enacted this session (SB 1057) created an “exclusively medical” license designation for OLCC applicants. Under SB 56, city and county governments that currently allow or prohibit OHA processing sites or dispensaries may unilaterally prohibit or allow exclusively medical licensees. This would empower local municipalities to refine the cannabis regulatory structure within their limited jurisdictions as their constituents prefer.

Restricted licenses. At its discretion, the OLCC may issue a restricted license to an applicant if the OLCC makes a finding that the applicant meets the denial criteria found in OAR 845-025-1115 (2). This fix allows an applicants to obtain restricted licenses when they otherwise may have been simply denied.

Remember to always stay tuned to our blog updates for more information on changes to Oregon cannabis laws!

Continue Reading
image title

Effective July 1, 2017, Oregon’s minimum wage increases across the State. As you may recall, in 2016, Oregon adopted a three-tiered minimum wage: the Portland Metro rate, the Standard rate and the Nonurban Counties rate. Here’s how the rate is changing for each area:

Area Current Minimum Wage July 1, 2017 Minimum Wage
Portland Metro $9.75 $11.25
Standard $9.75 $10.25
Nonurban Counties $9.50 $10.00

Of course, with an increase in the minimum wage comes a corresponding increase in the overtime rate, which is one-and-a-half times the minimum wage, so $16.88 for the Portland Metro area, $15.38 for the Standard area and $15.00 for the Nonurban Counties.

The Portland Metro area consists of all areas within the Portland metropolitan area urban growth boundary. The Nonurban Counties are Baker, Coos, Crook, Curry, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler Counties. The Standard rate applies to the remainder of the State. This Bureau of Labor and industries’ map illustrates the three-tiered minimum wage:

The rate changes apply to any work performed on or after July 1, 2017. This means the change may come in the middle of a pay period for some employees. An employer cannot delay the increase until the employee’s next pay period.

Employers should take whatever steps are necessary to prepare their payroll system for the minimum wage increase. Employers should also update the minimum wage poster that every employer must post in an area accessible to all employees. For employers using the all-in-one federal and state employment law poster, you can replace your current poster or simply change the minimum wage on that section of your current poster.

The new $11.25 Portland Metro minimum wage is one of the highest minimum wages in the country, but still well below Seattle’s $13.50 minimum wage for large employers. Oregon employers can rest easy after the July 1, 2017 increase. The next scheduled increase doesn’t come until July 1, 2018.

Continue Reading
image title

Yesterday, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 94, known as the “2017-18 Budget Trailer Bill” (BTB). The BTB reconciles the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), which regulates medical cannabis, with the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which legalizes and regulates adult-use (a.k.a. “recreational”) cannabis. Although MRCSA largely supplied the framework for AUMA, the laws contain significant differences that many anticipated would cause complications in the licensing and regulatory process, both for industry and state regulators.

BTB repeals the bulk of MCRSA, though certain provisions survive in the resultant combined medical (now termed “medicinal”) and adult-use regulatory scheme – the cumbersomely named Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). Through this reconciliation, the laws governing adult-use cannabis also received a slight makeover.

Here are some of the key changes the BTB will make once it takes effect:

No Residency.  There will no longer be a residency requirement to own or operate an adult-use cannabis business. AUMA had required that adult-use license-holders and owners demonstrate continuous California residency since January 1, 2015. BTB lifted this restriction, meaning that out-of-staters will now be able to participate in both the medicinal and adult-use markets.

Vertical Integration.  “Vertical integration” will be permitted, except for testing laboratories and, to a narrower extent, for large cultivators. Thus, both medicinal and adult-use licensees will be able to hold multiple license types. Licenses for large cultivation operations (larger than ½ acre indoors or 1 acre outdoors) will still be unavailable until 2023.

License Types. License types will be the same for medicinal and adult-use cannabis. The BTB eliminates the “producing dispensary” (MCRSA Type 10A) and transporter (MCRSA Type 12) license categories but retains all others, including specialty cottage cultivation and microbusinesses (small retailers with farms not exceeding 10,000 sq. ft.).

Separation of Medicinal and Adult-Use.  Medicinal and adult-use cannabis activity must be separate. With some exceptions, including for testing labs, medicinal and adult-use cannabis businesses may not operate on the same premises.

Advertising Rules.  The advertising, marketing, adulteration, and misbranding restrictions and prohibitions from MCRSA and AUMA will apply to both medicinal and adult-use activity.

Industrial Hemp.  Industrial hemp will be regulated solely by the Department of Food and Agriculture, per the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act. This regulatory authority was formerly shared with the Bureau of Cannabis Control under the AUMA.

The BTB currently awaits the governor’s signature to take effect. Although the state is still taking public comment on the draft regulations implementing MCRSA, these regulations will likely be substantially rewritten to incorporate the BTB’s changes.  Stay tuned to our blog for more information on changes to California marijuana laws.

Continue Reading
image title

I’m just an old corporate attorney. At the large firm I worked at for nearly 20 years, “dabbling” into practice areas in which you were not an expert was frowned upon. Become an expert in one or two areas of the law, stick with them, and let the other attorneys at the firm handle the stuff that they know better than you. That was the mantra, and I have found it a convenient philosophy to maintain. And so, for the past few years, I have done everything humanly possible to avoid learning and keeping up with the voluminous and ever-changing marijuana rules and regulations of the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. That’s what my (younger) colleagues are for.

However, there are a few OLCC rules that a business attorney practicing in the marijuana industry simply cannot avoid, including the rules governing:

• Who is an “applicant” for purposes of an OLCC application;
• Who has a “financial interest” in a licensed business; and
• What happens if any of these things change.

Business transactions appear to be happening more than ever in the industry, and two of the most common questions we get are:

• Who, exactly, has to be on (or added to) the OLCC application?
• Is this going to slow up the deal?

The OLCC published new rules effective January 1, 2017, which included some changes to the definitions of “applicant” and “financial interest.” The rules cleared up some issues nicely. However, the rules do not provide an obvious answer to every business scenario. For some scenarios, it is necessary to determine the OLCC’s interpretation or policy with respect to a particular rule.

I and others at our firm have had a series of recent discussions with the OLCC on these rules to make sure that our firm’s advice to our clients is consistent with the OLCC’s interpretations and policies.

The following is a summary of the current rules, based on both the text of the rules and the OLCC’s current interpretations and policies of the same.

Applicant

The rules concerning applicants are relatively clear, and can be found at OAR 845-025-1030(3-4) and OAR 845-025-1045.

The following persons are applicants:

1. An individual or legal entity who holds or controls an interest of 10% or more in the licensed business;
2. An individual or legal entity (other than an employee acting under the direction of the owner) that: (i) exercises or is entitled to exercise control over the licensed business; (ii) incurs or is entitled to incur debt or similar obligations on behalf of the licensed business; or (iii) enters into or is entitled to enter into a contract or similar obligations on behalf of the business; and
3. An individual or legal entity identified as the lessee of the licensed premises.
Additionally, if a legal entity is an applicant, the following individuals within the legal entity are also applicants:
4. For a limited partnership, each general partner;
5. For an LLC, each member whose investment commitment or membership interest is 10% or more; and
6. For a corporation: (i) each director who owns or controls 3% or more of the voting stock; (ii) each principal officer; and (iii) each shareholder who owns or controls 10% or more of the voting stock.

Categories 1, 4, 5, and 6 have to do with ownership and the executive management team. These categories are always relevant and we focus on them all of the time.

There are definitely some logical inconsistencies with Categories 4 through 6, and there are a number of instances where different results would occur based solely on the form of the legal entity, even though there would appear to be no substantive differences between certain scenarios. For example, a 15% passive nonvoting member of a parent company LLC would be an applicant, whereas a 15% passive nonvoting shareholder of a parent company corporation would not be an applicant. These inconsistencies rarely “wag the dog” when organizing an entity structure, but they could.

The items in Category 2 do not frequently come into play, but they should never be overlooked. One not-uncommon scenario we have seen is when a licensed business hires a third-party management company that has the authority to enter into certain purchasing or other contracts on behalf of the business. In that case, the management company (and some or all of its owners, depending on the entity type of the management company) would be considered applicants of the licensed business.

Category 3 ideally should never arise because the legal entity that owns the licensed business should always be the lessee or sublessee on the lease. However, again, this item should not be overlooked.

Financial Interest
Here’s where it gets more interesting (which is an attorney’s way of saying less clear).

The term “financial interest” is defined in OAR 845-025-1015(20). The general definition states: “Financial interest” means having an interest in the business such that the performance of the business causes, or is capable of causing, an individual, or a legal entity with which the individual is affiliated, to benefit or suffer financially. The definition then provides a short non-exclusive list of scenarios that constitute a financial interest.

The definition does not specifically address many common business scenarios that we have encountered. And so, rather than take a guess at things, we felt the best move was to contact the OLCC to determine their current interpretations and policies regarding those scenarios.

We have learned that the following persons have a financial interest in a licensed business:

A. A direct or indirect equity owner of the licensed business (with one exception specified below);
B. An employee or agent who receives out-of-the-ordinary compensation;
C. A lender who lends money or property to an applicant or the licensed business for use in the business at a commercially unreasonable rate;
D. A person who gifts money or property to an applicant or the licensed business for use in the business;
E. The spouse of an applicant;
F. A person who receives out-of-the-ordinary consideration as a result of any commercial transaction;
G. A person who is entitled to receive any payment based on a percentage of profits, sales, or other performance metric of the licensed business;
H. The holder of an option or warrant to purchase a direct or indirect equity interest;
I. An employee or other service provider who is granted an option to acquire a direct or indirect equity interest;
J. The holder of a convertible promissory note;
K. A person who is granted a security interest in the assets or a direct or indirect equity interest; and
L. A person who has any right or potential right (based on any potential future contingencies) to acquire the assets or a direct or indirect equity interest.

Overall, this is a rather broad interpretation of the rule. Categories A through F are clear from (or are clearly implied by) the text of OAR 845-025-1015(20). For Category G, receiving a percentage of profits from a licensed business is also clearly implied by the text of the rule. However, receiving a percentage of sales or other performance metric is not. Likewise, the OLCC easily could have interpreted OAR 845-025-1015(20) differently with respect to Categories H through L. Still, this is the OLCC’s current interpretation.

And so what scenarios are we left with that do not constitute a financial interest?

In short: (a) ordinary and fair market value compensation and consideration; (b) unsecured loans at a commercially reasonable fixed interest rate; (c) fixed dollar payments (rather than percentages); (d) the absence of collateral having anything to do with the business; and (e) the absence of contingencies that could result in a person acquiring the assets or any direct or indirect equity interest in the business.

Additionally, the rules expressly provide for one specific exception to the general rule that every direct or indirect equity owner of a licensed business holds a financial interest. OAR 845-025-1015(20)(b) provides that a financial interest does not include any investment that the investor does not control in nature, amount or timing. While this language is not absolutely clear on its face, the OLCC’s interpretation is that this exempts persons who have invested in a company or financial fund that, in turn, invests in a specific licensed business (assuming that the exempt person is passive in nature and would not otherwise be considered an applicant). For example, if an individual buys shares in a public company and the public company, in turn, invests or has invested in one or more licensed businesses, then the individual investor would not be deemed to have a financial interest in the licensed businesses.

Of course, no list of all conceivable scenarios could ever be complete, and there are certainly scenarios that will arise that do not fit neatly into the text of the rules or the OLCC’s interpretations or policies regarding the same. Similarly, the OLCC could change its interpretations and policies at any time.

Consequently, before applying for or renewing any OLCC license, and before entering into any new business transaction that could potentially affect who may have a financial interest in a licensed business, it is always advisable to speak with an attorney (or, at a minimum, with the OLCC itself).

Distinction #1 – Criminal Background Checks

Based on the text of the rules, there is only one distinction between an applicant and the holder of a financial interest. The OLCC is required by statute to conduct a criminal background check on each applicant who is an individual. Applicants must submit fingerprints and other information to the OLCC. See OAR 845-025-1030(6)(a) and OAR 845-025-1080. The OLCC may require each individual who holds a financial interest to submit the information necessary for a criminal background check, but they are not required to do so by statute. See OAR 845-025-1030(7).

Distinction #2 – Changes

There is one other significant distinction between an applicant and the holder of a financial interest that is not in the text of the rules, but is instead based on the OLCC’s current policy position. OAR 845-025-1160(4) provides that a licensed business must obtain the OLCC’s preapproval before changing who has a financial interest in the business. Here is a link to the form that must be submitted to the OLCC if there is a change in financial interest or business structure: http://www.oregon.gov/olcc/marijuana/Documents/Licensing_Forms/mj_change_financial_fillable.pdf.

Although OAR 845-025-1160(4) and the OLCC’s change form apply to all financial interests, the OLCC’s current policy is that only the addition of a new applicant requires the preapproval of the OLCC. If a licensed business is adding a person that merely holds a financial interest (and who is not an applicant), then the licensed business can finalize the transaction first, and then notify the OLCC after the fact.

This is a significant benefit for businesses who are adding only financial interest holders and who do not want to delay the closing of the transaction.

Conclusion

The OLCC’s rules governing applicants, financial interest holders, and changes to the same are a bit complicated and are not always clear from the text of the rules themselves. Compliance is always important naturally, but these days perhaps it is more important than ever.

Before applying for or renewing any OLCC marijuana license, and before entering into any new business transaction that could potentially affect who may have a financial interest in a licensed business, it is advisable to speak with an attorney.

Finally, if you currently have an OLCC license and are uncertain whether you have disclosed to the OLCC all applicants and financial interest holders, you also should speak with an attorney. The OLCC considers violations of the applicant and financial interest rules to be serious Category I or Category II violations, depending on intent. Correcting an omission is certainly possible, but it should be undertaken with legal advice.

If you have any questions or issues, please contact any of our business attorneys or compliance and licensing attorneys.

We will update this blog if and when we become aware of any change in the OLCC’s interpretations or policies on this issue.

Continue Reading
image title

Bad dreamer, what’s your name?
Looks like we’re riding on the same train
Looks as though there’ll be more pain
There’s gonna be a showdown

I have always thought that the August 29, 2013 “Cole Memo” is an amazing legal document. In case you’ve never read it, or in case you haven’t read it in a while, here’s a link: https://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/3052013829132756857467.pdf

The Cole Memo was released by the U.S. Department of Justice (the “US DOJ”) in response to the fine people of Colorado and Washington passing ballot measures in November 2012 that legalized the commercial production and sale of marijuana for all persons 21 years of age and older. The Cole Memo summarizes the enforcement policies of the US DOJ concerning marijuana, and somehow concludes that federal US attorneys should just sit back and let commercial marijuana businesses sell marijuana to non-patient consumers right out in the open. On Main Street. In the middle of town. Smack dab in front of everyone driving down the road or walking down the sidewalk. When it’s clear as a crystal that every single person involved is violating federal law all day long.

How could this happen? Is the Cole Memo an enlightened piece of political pragmatism? A bold action by the Executive Branch in response to inaction by the Legislative Branch and a realization that the War on Drugs was a complete failure? A lazy cop-out by the Executive Branch because it didn’t have the stomach to either enforce or change the law? A nonsensical mish-mash of pretzel logic by the liberal elites in the Obama Administration? The Cole Memo is probably all of these things, and that’s what makes it so great. And without it, thousands of marijuana businesses and probably millions of marijuana consumers across the country would not be doing what they are doing today.

Under a different U.S. President and a different U.S. Attorney General, there might have been an entirely opposite version of the Cole Memo, which could have resulted in SWAT teams descending on medical marijuana businesses and in the federal government threatening state employees with imprisonment should they dare to implement the ballot measures. If that had happened back in 2013, I am quite certain that Oregon Ballot Measure 91 would not have passed in 2014, at least not in the form it took.

But I digress. What is President-elect Trump going to do once he affirms to the TV cameras that he will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States? I have read many articles discussing the possibilities, and most everyone’s conclusion, including mine, can be boiled down to: “Who the hell knows?” Things could get worse, for sure. On the other hand, maybe things get better and then it’s truly game over for federal prohibition in Oregon and other States that have legalized marijuana. Either way though, I suspect that the Cole Memo won’t survive the first six months of calendar year 2017.

From a business perspective, what is one to do with such uncertainty? Keep on keepin’ on seems like a logical choice at the moment. The industry was never for the faint-hearted, and there are enough other real day-to-day problems to deal with. So what’s the point of getting bogged down thinking about an unanswerable question when we’ll all know the answer soon enough. But what about those tip-toeing around the industry at the moment, like . . . uh . . . investors? If they’re not already in the game, they don’t need to do anything. They can sit on the sidelines and wait for more certainty. Or maybe they see an advantage in the uncertainty, and think they should move in now. Market inefficiencies lead to opportunities and all of that.

In any event, here’s why I’m writing this. If you are a client who engaged our firm to assist you in raising money at any time during the past few years, or if you are an investor who has invested in one of our clients, you have probably seen the following securities law risk factor in one of the investment documents:

Our business is illegal under federal law. Producing, manufacturing, processing, possessing, distributing, selling, and using marijuana is a federal crime. Under the Federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (the “Federal CSA”), marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, which is defined as having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. Your investment in the Company may: (a) expose you personally to criminal liability under federal law, resulting in monetary fines and jail time; and (b) expose any real and personal property used in connection with our business to seizure and forfeiture to the federal government. We encourage you to carefully review the U.S. Department of Justice Memorandum for All United States Attorneys dated August 29, 2013 from James M. Cole (the “Cole Memo”), which summarizes the current enforcement policies of the U.S. Department of Justice (the “US DOJ”) concerning marijuana.

Now, I’ve been a securities law attorney for over 20 years and I can tell you that this is one of the craziest risk factors that’s ever been written in the history of securities laws. “Invest in our company and you can go to jail.”

Despite that doomsday scenario, I’ve had the feeling for some time now that nobody’s given it two seconds’ worth of thought. “Yeah yeah yeah, it’s against federal law. Thanks for the news flash. Now where do I sign?” Why did everyone just start blowing through this risk factor like they couldn’t care less? The answer I’m guessing is a mixture of: (i) the Cole Memo, and the fact that federal US attorneys have actually adhered to it for years; and (ii) the fact that so many people are involved in the industry now that there’s a feeling of safety in sheer numbers. “What are they going to do? Arrest everyone?”

Probably not. But a big chill could set in for a while if Trump’s Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions says or does one thing rather than another. And so for now, I am unveiling a new securities law risk factor, which will appear, along with the original, in our documents for clients who are seeking to raise money from investors. To be sure, this one won’t last as long as the original Cole Memo risk factor. And as mentioned, I am guessing that both of these risk factors will be relegated to the dustbin in the near future, almost certainly to be replaced by a new one (hopefully better, but perhaps worse). For now however, behold the following, and keep on keepin’ on:

The federal government’s enforcement policies with respect to marijuana may change. Since the release of the Cole Memo, federal United States Attorneys having jurisdiction over Oregon have not attempted to prosecute any person whose commercial marijuana operation is in compliance with Oregon law. As a result of the United States presidential election held on November 8, 2016, Donald Trump is expected to become the next United States president on January 20, 2017. Mr. Trump has announced that he intends to nominate Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. If confirmed by the United States Senate, Mr. Sessions will head the US DOJ and dictate the US DOJ’s enforcement policies concerning marijuana. Mr. Sessions has previously stated his opposition to the legalization of marijuana, and may adopt US DOJ enforcement policies consistent with his position, including but not limited to a revocation of the Cole Memo. Any change in the US DOJ’s enforcement policies likely will have a material adverse effect on us.

Tonight, the longest night

Take it away Mr. Lynne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0cuCLTnkMM

Showdown lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Continue Reading
image title

Major changes to the minimum salary requirements for exempt employees originally scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2016, are now on hold as the result of a ruling by a U.S. District Court judge in Texas.

As discussed in our November 7, 2016 blog post, the new rules would significantly increase the minimum salary requirements for the executive, professional and administrative employee exemptions (from $455/week to $913/week) and the minimum compensation for the highly compensated employee exemption (from $100,000/year to $134,004/year).

Twenty states joined together to challenge the new rules. On November 22, 2016, Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of the Eastern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction blocking the new rules from taking effect. Since it is only a preliminary injunction, the judge can change his ruling after further proceedings, but that is seen as unlikely. The Obama Administration can appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, if it chooses to do so, but no decision has been announced.

The ruling means employers do not have to make any changes to current salary levels, at least until the courts make a final decision. Most employers already planned for the new rules, so it will be interesting to see how employees react when employers rescind their announced changes. We also don’t know the Trump Administration’s position on the proposed changes, so stay tuned.

Continue Reading