On May 30th, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (“OLCC”) announced that it will “pause” all OLCC recreational producer/processor/wholesaler/retailer applications filed after June 15th. The OLCC’s announcement cited a backlog of applications – as well as a lack of resources to process and police licensees – as justification for the pause.
This announcement comes on the heels of U.S. Attorney Billy Williams May 18th announcement of his enforcement priorities with regard to marijuana in Oregon. Williams, the only U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, cited overproduction as first among his priorities with regard to marijuana enforcement. Williams is the only U.S. Attorney in a state with an adult-use marijuana program to have announced new priorities since the Cole Memo was revoked by AG Jeff Sessions in January.
Williams enforcement-priority announcement seems to dovetail into the OLCC’s May 30th announcement. While the OLCC did not mention Williams at all, the “pause” certainly seems to be a nod to Williams’ authority. There have been nearly 2,000 recreational marijuana licenses issued, and nearly 30,000 marijuana worker permits issued in the past two years, the OLCC said. Its pause is part of an effort to ease lengthening wait times for applicants, and “ensure ongoing oversight of the legal marijuana market,” according to the announcement.
OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks provided an even more ominous appraisal: “…[W]e must focus on the current participants in the system and preserve for the Oregon Legislature its consideration of the necessity for further statutory controls on marijuana licensing in 2019.”
In other words, the OLCC likely will not be processing license applications until after the new year – if ever.
There is one exception to this pause: According to Marks, acquisition applications (where a non-licensed OLCC applicant is applying to purchase the assets and operate on the premises of an existing OLCC licensee) will still continue to be processed as usual. In other words, you still have a chance to get into the marijuana business in Oregon after June 15th if you find a willing seller.