BEND, OR -- Experts from law enforcement, state agencies and the legal marijuana sector discussed local challenges with the cannabis industry and its future impacts, at Tuesday night's Bend Chamber What's Brewing Event.
Andre Ourso, with the Oregon Health Authority, says medical marijuana has been legal in Oregon for nearly 20 years, but there are inconsistencies in the system and privacy laws, that get exploited, "We want to be as helpful as we can, but we want that to be within the bounds of state law. We've asked the attorney general to look into that, how we can best verify grow sites for each other so we can conform and get those bad actors out of the system." Ourso says medicinal marijuana is now a "compassionate" business model; he says that if growers want to make money, they need to sell pot recreationally, which is regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks says a lack of funding has led to a shortage of qualified inspectors to keep up with the number of new businesses, "The ratio that we have is, on the recreational side, one inspector per 100 licenses."
Hunter Neubauer is the co-owner and president of Oregrown in Bend. He says he lobbies the Oregon Legislature regularly, trying to get state lawmakers to see cannabis as a possible solution to a big problem: chronic pain. "Let's offer people the opportunity to choose a cannabis product instead of a narcotic product - an opioid - and then let's study it; and let's see how much money the OHP program saves on a monthly basis." He acknowledges the industry has its issues, "I think it's going to take us to have the conversations and address issues that this industry continues to face. We're going to need some more time to get it all figured out." Neubauer told the crowd, ""I look forward to continuing that kind of relationship. That's what we want! We want people to come see our facility. And, if we're making a mistake, tell us."
Bend Police Chief Jim Porter also took part in the panel discussion; Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson and Laura Breit, of Cannabis by Design, participated from the audience.