Oregon’s Interstate Commerce Bill for Marijuana Seeds and Intoxicating Hemp Products

I wanted to drop a line today on an interesting piece of cannabis legislation moving through the Oregon session. The draft bill at issue is omnibus SB 353 (most recent mark-up here). This is a very different SB 353 than its placeholder from back in January when I published our annual Legislative Forecast and Report. The bill has been gutted and stuffed as they say down in Salem. Most interestingly, the reconstituted SB 353 would allow OLCC licensees to export intoxicating products that fall under the federal definition of hemp, along with marijuana seeds.

Import and export of “hemp” cannabinoid products

As drafted, SB 353 would allow OLCC licensees (and others) to import and export items that fall under the federal definition of hemp. This would include a fair bit of what is called “usable marijuana” under OLCC administrative rules, as well as certain edibles and concentrates (ex.: THCa). All very interesting stuff, especially coming from the first state to ban the sale of artificially derived cannabinoids (with limited exceptions).

You may be wondering: why is this a big deal? Well, OLCC licensees are not allowed to ship any of their crops or products out of state. Unlike hemp licensees and other businesses, they aren’t allowed to take advantage of the truck-sized, intoxicating loopholes that were created by the 2018 Farm Bill. That would change here.

Why we want import and export of cannabinoid products

SB 353 has been plugged by industry advocates as potentially helpful with Oregon’s oversupply issue. OLCC isn’t allowed to say anything formally about this bill (new rules), but I’ve gathered from Commission contacts that OLCC is working to support the concept at a technical level. OLCC is also pushing SB 353, silently, as introducing better regulated, properly tested, and safely packaged products to the hemp ingestibles market. That market is a national goat rodeo, so I agree with them here.

Another reason Oregon may want to pursue this bill is to beat California and other states on an export opportunity. Both Oregon and California (and now Washington) have THC program export bills, but those laws are anticipatory and mostly symbolic. (See our thoughts here and here). SB 353 would allow shipments right away for federally lawful products, even if they originate within the OLCC system. Neither California nor Washington – nor any other state with a closed-loop, “marijuana” program – allows for licensee shipments interstate.

How import and export of cannabinoid products would work

SB 353 requires OLCC to “establish a registration program for hemp products that contain cannabinoids and are intended for human or animal consumption or use.” The registry would apply to sellers both inside and outside of Oregon, and the registrants would have to submit product information to OLCC and meet various labeling requirements.

Note that hemp-derived topical products are excepted from the SB 353 regime. This is consistent with FDA’s position that such products are legal under the Farm Bill, when sourced from industrial hemp. In general, the import and export of all cannabinoid products under SB 353 would simply have to comply with federal law.

Import and export of marijuana seeds

This may be a separate consideration, depending on who you ask, but SB 353 address seeds as well. Specifically, the draft bill removes from the definition of “marijuana items” both “marijuana seeds [and] industrial hemp seeds imported or exported in accordance with applicable state and federal law.” So, seeds possessed by OLCC licensees that will germinate into high THC plants would be shippable too.

I’m not going to analyze today whether the shipment of marijuana seeds is actually legal under federal law. Suffice it to say that DEA has opined that it is— at least for now. That seems to be good enough for the drafters of this bill.

Will SB 353 pass?

I am not sure and I doubt anyone else is. The bill has been moving, though. It’s already been through the Judiciary Committee (earning a “Do Pass” recommendation), then public hearings and a work session. As of April 12, SB 353 is off to the Ways and Means Committee. I’ve written many times that Ways and Means can be a graveyard of sorts, although we do see bills pushed through.

If SB 353 passes with import/export intact, one interesting thing to watch would be interplay between Oregon’s new law and the federal Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years. The 2018 Farm Bill is set to expire September 30, 2023. Oregon’s legislative session ends June 25, 2023. I’ll check in again at the end of the Oregon session, unless something big happens prior.

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