Oregon Marijuana: Proposed “Change in Location” Rule Adds Risk for Sellers

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) regularly engages in new rulemaking and this year is no different. The OLCC has a proposed a slate of rule changes it deigns as responsive to implement 2022 legislation and technical updates. But this round of rulemaking has numerous substantial revisions to the rules that are not required by legislation. These rules go far beyond mere technical changes.

This post concerns a significant change to rules that would dramatically impact sellers of marijuana businesses, related to “change in location” sales. The current rules that apply to sellers are generally found in OAR 845-0240-1160 (“Notification of Changes”).

How OLCC “change in location” sales work today

First, it is critical to note that a seller does not sell its license, though people commonly talk about the sale or “purchase of a license.” Instead, an OLCC applicant purchaser must apply for and be granted a new license by the OLCC in connection with an approved sale and license surrender by the outbound licensee seller.

When a purchaser desires to move the location of the licensed business, part of the transaction includes requesting a change in location from the OLCC. If the deal falls through, the seller typically keeps its license and carries on. But OLCC is proposing to remove that safeguard.

The proposed rule for OLCC “change in location” sales

To wit, OLCC proposes to add an entirely new rule, OAR 845-0240-1170 (“Proposed Rule 1170”), titled Change of Ownership. Propose Rule 1170(6)(a) provides as follows:

A change of ownership application may be submitted for a proposed licensed premises at a different location than the current licensed premises if the current licensee or laboratory licensee:

(a) Requests to surrender their license prior to being assigned to a Commission staff member following OAR 845- 025-8750, understanding that the license surrender request will be processed even if the change of ownership application is not completed;

In the context of the purchase and sale of a marijuana business where the purchaser desires to move to a new location, Proposed Rule 1170(a)(6) means a licensed buyer may park its license at a new location only if: a) the seller requests to surrender its license before the change of ownership is assigned to an investigator, and b) the seller loses its license if the deal falls through for any reason. (E.g. the purchaser not making the payment.)

The potential fallout of the new rule

This is a huge risk for sellers. Practically this means that sellers ought to require the deal close at the existing location and leave it to the buyer to change the location afterward. Or, alternatively, that the seller change the location prior to the change of ownership. Neither of these workarounds helps create an efficient marketplace. Each constitutes a radical sea change from established merger and acquisition practice in the Oregon marijuana industry.

Public hearing and comment deadlines (soon!)

A public hearing is scheduled on this proposed change in location rule, and other proposed rules, on October 25, 2022. The hearing will be at the OLCC offices in Portland and online from 10:00 – 11:00 am

(Yeah, just one hour!). The last day to comment on these rules is Halloween, October 31 at 12:00 p.m. Contact information is in the link above.

Hat tip to Alex Berger of Emerge Law on this issue. Also, check out our recent Oregon posts for more on recent state cannabis licensing trends and OLCC updates.

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