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Members discuss the future of horticulture and cannabis

Posted By Beth Farmer, Friday, November 20, 2015

Oregon voters legalized recreational cannabis in the 2014 election. Because cannabis production involves the growing of plants, it is now legally a form of horticulture.

What does that mean for Oregon nurseries? And how must cannabis producers adapt to the fact that they are becoming a part of Oregon's agricultural community, with all the requirements and obligations that that entails?

An expert panel of presenters shared information and perspective with OAN members at the recent OAN Convention on Nov. 14 at Eagle Crest Resort.

State Rep. Ann Lininger co-chairs the Oregon Legislature's Marijuana Legalization Committee, which unanimously approved five bills regulate cannabis now that it is legalized. She said it is a good opportunity for Oregon farmers. She added that the gate value of Oregon marijuana production could soon exceed $1 billion. "It's shocking to think the cannabis sector could be almost on par with nurseries," she said.

Other presenters included Steve Marks, who serves as executive director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission; Steve Shropshire, who is the legal counsel for OAN; and nursery operators Matt Gold and Doug Hart.

Following these presentations, members discussed the issue in small groups before finally taking an informal, nonbinding straw poll to see what the OAN's stance on cannabis should be.

Marks and the OLCC will implement cannabis regulations for the state and handle licensing for growers, distributors and sellers. Various licenses will be available starting January 4.

According to Marks, various other state agencies will also have a hand in regulating cannabis production. Oregon Department of Agriculture will issue guidance for pesticide use and will license food establishments. Oregon Health Authority will issue requirements for pesticide training, certify testing labs, and adopt rules for product labeling and advertising.

Shropshire assisted with a recent conference put on by OAN and the Oregon Farm Bureau to educate prospective cannabis growers on agriculture in Oregon.

"People from other states are bringing with them really big amounts of money and varying degrees of sophistication," he said. "What we saw at the cannabis summit was a lot of folks with naïveté about what Oregon commercial ag production looks like and what you folks have to comply with. People didn't know land use laws can restrict what you can do, or how you can do it. People who have been growing illegally might have had unpermitted or exempt wells, but now that it becomes a legal commercial crop, you need a water right. A lot of people sat up said, 'Uh oh. I might not be able to do this.'"

When members weighed in on the matter, support was equal for either trying to incorporate cannabis growers into the OAN, or the neutral stance of educating producers about accepted horticulture practices, but doing nothing further to help them. Those options had 30 votes each. The option of postponing any decision at all had 16 votes, and one member voted to not cooperate with cannabis growers at all, on moral grounds.

Any final decisions regarding cannabis, and cannabis producers, will be made by the OAN Board of Directors following more input from members.

More information:

Business Readiness Guidebook for Oregon Recreational Marijuana Operations (PDF)

Presentation by Steve Marks, Oregon Liquor Control Commission (PDF)


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