Danica Hibpshman Helps Guide OLCC Regulatory Framework Updates

In July 2020, Tonkon Torp attorney Danica Hibpshman was appointed to a newly convened OLCC Regulatory/Legislative Advisory Committee for the cannabis industry. The committee was created to review existing cannabis regulations and formulate policy recommendations that will lighten certain regulatory burden, shorten licensing timelines, reduce backlogs, and make the most of the limited resources allocated to OLCC for cannabis oversight.

When cannabis was legalized in Oregon in 2014, many regulations were modeled on existing alcohol and liquor rules. Now, nearly six years into a legal market, it is much more apparent which regulations fit the cannabis industry best, with its unique characteristics, and which do not. The 15-member committee, comprised primarily of attorneys working in the cannabis space and heads of cannabis industry groups, worked to define an initial set of recommendations on attainable short term and longer term actions to better position Oregon with a strong regulatory framework should cannabis gain legal status at the federal level. Danica brought a unique perspective to the committee, having previously worked at OLCC for five years helping to create the initial regulatory framework and overseeing the agency’s licensing division.

“The groups and voices who came together to create the initial regulatory framework for cannabis did good work for that time and place,” Danica shared. “We know a lot more now, and it’s exciting to work with OLCC from the operator side to update the regulatory and statute framework to match the reality of running a cannabis business in Oregon. I applaud the agency for bringing together a group of legal minds and industry leaders who are ready to take cannabis into the next phase, and for acting quickly to adopt many of the recommendations we presented for licensing and compliance changes.”

On September 11, the committee delivered its first set of recommendations to the commission. Three priority concepts for compliance reform focused on limiting license cancellations, implementing a "Fix-It" ticket system for non-major violations, and building a culture of trust between the industry and OLCC. Regarding licensing, the committee urged OLCC to clear the current license application backlog with temporary changes, and to adopt policies that will streamline licensing and mitigate future backlogs by reducing documentation, and entrusting the industry.

At the OLCC’s October 15 meeting, the commission incorporated many of the committee’s recommendations into more formal processes. The agency approved a temporary rule allowing license streamlining, initiating the permanent rulemaking process to expand the scope of streamlining and provide opportunity for industry input, and initiating permanent rulemaking for a new Verification of Compliance (VOC) program which provides licensees with an opportunity to fix problems and avoid more severe penalties.

Having successfully presented the OLCC with an achievable set of recommendations, the committee will continue serving as an ongoing workgroup that provides feedback to the agency as needed, and to consider future substantive policy and program changes.

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