The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has hired more staff to help ensure that marijuana license holders are compliant with state law. Following a February audit, the Oregon Secretary of State found that more compliance officers are needed. There is only one compliance officer serving the entire Bend region, but a second compliance officer will be starting in about a week.
The good news for the Bend region is that most of those communities imposed ordinances to ban recreational marijuana, The Bend Bulletin reports. It’s good news for this region because fewer compliance officers are required in this area. Despite the bans, Bend has the most retail marijuana stores east of the Cascade Mountains.
The retailers in this region do, however, appear to be 100-percent compliant following underage decoy operations.
Overall, the state of Oregon had an 89-percent compliance rate as of January.
The licensing fees paid by marijuana business owners cover the costs of regulation. Funds are available to hire more staff, the Oregon Legislature must approve a request to increase staff.
Mark Pettinger, spokesman for the OLCC marijuana program, said, “We have the ability to raise fees on licenses, licensing fees, in order to pay the costs for the program, including additional personnel. But we need the Legislature’s blessing to fund those positions. We can’t just do it ourselves.”
Oregon’s legislative session is a short one, beginning on February 5 and lasting only 35 days. For the new fiscal year, the OLCC has budgeted $14.3-million for recreational marijuana program oversight. This represents a $3.8-million increase from the last biennium period. Twenty-four new licensing agents and three enforcement agents have been added.
The state needs to increase its regulatory staff to get caught up on the 3,435 pending applications and licenses. Many of the applications are for growers.
OLCC Regional Manager Laura Shepard said, “It’s a very heavy workload. A lot of it, at this point, is complaint driven.”
The state plans to continue its undercover underage stings to ensure that underage sales are not taking place. Bulking up the staff will help regulators get caught up and get through processes a little faster.