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Marijuana testing: Oregon revamps testing rules — yet again


Vials containing extracted medical marijuana are ready for testing at a lab in Wilsonville. The Oregon Health Authority issued yet another set of revised rules recently that, in essence, reduce the number of required tests for potency, solvents and pesticides. (The Associated Press file photo)

Oregon continues to tweak its marijuana testing rules, hoping to ease a backlog and get flowers, oils and cannabis-infused snacks and treats into the medical and recreational markets.

The Oregon Health Authority issued yet another set of revised rules recently that in

essence reduce the number of required tests for potency, solvents and pesticides.

The rules don’t change the type of tests required, though Jeff Rhoades, a senior adviser to Gov. Kate Brown, told a panel of lawmakers this week that the state is considering replacing the pesticide testing system in favor of a looser approach used in agricultural crops.

Apples, grapes and hops, for instance, undergo random sampling for pesticides before they land on grocery store shelves.

“That is the approach we are looking to take eventually with cannabis,” said Andre Ourso, manager of the medical marijuana program at the health authority.

Under Oregon’s standards now, marijuana is subjected to frequent and comprehensive testing at multiple stages, from flower to oils.

The state will re-examine its testing requirements early next year, Ourso said.

Norris Monson, CEO of Cultivated Industries, a Portland-based marijuana producer, processor and retailer, said he’s experienced long delays getting his products back from labs.

He said he’s begun to spend more for expedited testing so he can move his flower and extracts more quickly. He figures he gets three to four calls a day from shops desperate for products.

“A lot of them have nothing on their shelves anymore,” he said.

Meanwhile, marijuana growers, processors and stores are approaching a key deadline. Medical marijuana businesses that want to deal in the recreational market have until Jan. 1 to make the switch.

Starting next month, dispensaries administered by the health authority will no longer be allowed to sell to anyone 21 and older. They may sell only to medical marijuana cardholders. The state allowed the dispensaries to sell to both medical and recreational users while it established rules for the recreational system under the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

In October, 425 dispensaries were registered with the health authority. The latest tally shows 350 dispensaries remain registered.

The latest figures from the liquor commission show 85 retailers are licensed to sell recreational marijuana.

Ourso said he’s concerned these businesses don’t realize that they will no longer be able to sell on the recreational market in January. He said the health authority plans to have inspectors in the field starting next month to ensure dispensaries are limiting sales to medical marijuana cardholders.

Don Morse, owner of the Human Collective, a marijuana store in Southwest Portland, said the industry is “well aware of the significance of Jan. 1.”

He said marijuana processors have delayed transitioning to the recreational system because they worry there aren’t enough stores to accept their products. On the other hand, dispensaries worry they won’t have enough products to sell if they transition to the recreational market too soon.

Others plan to flout the rules by continuing to sell to people 21 and older, hoping the state won’t enforce them, Morse said.

The liquor commission is reviewing 285 retail applications and 411 producer applications.

Steve Marks, the executive director of the commission, said he suspects many opted to wait until the last minute. He said the commission is working quickly to issue recreational retail licenses but not all will be completed by Jan. 1.

Some shops, processors and producers, especially those with incomplete applications, will have to wait until early next year to begin operating.

“Everyone won’t be licensed at the end of the year if they haven’t done their work,” he said.