NEWS

Early marijuana sales program in Oregon wins final legislative approval

administrator, 07/13/2015 10:16 pm

Oregon adults will be able to purchase limited amounts of marijuana starting Oct. 1 — three months after possession became legal — under a bill that won final legislative approval on Thursday.

The House approved the temporary “early sales” program on a 40-19 vote and sent it to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature. If she signs the bill, Oregon will have the quickest retail start for any of the four states that have legalized recreational use of the drug.

In Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana, retail sales didn’t start until at least a year after possession became legal. In Alaska, legal possession started in late February but retail sales aren’t expected to start until 2016.

Backers of Senate Bill 460 said they wanted retail sales to start as soon as possible to keep newly legal consumers from turning to the black market. Possession became legal on Wednesday and people 21 and older are now allowed to have up to one ounce in public or eight ounces at home, and they can grow up to four plants.

Under SB 460, medical marijuana dispensaries will for the first time be allowed to sell to adults who don’t have a medical marijuana card. However, these recreational consumers would be limited in what they could buy.

Dispensaries could sell up to one-quarter ounce of dried marijuana to a recreational consumer per day, as well as seeds and up to four immature plants. They won’t be allowed to buy extracts, cannabis-infused edibles and a wide range of other products available to medical marijuana patients.

Pressure for some kind of temporary sales program grew after the Oregon Liquor Control Commission said it would not be ready to license retailers for recreational sales until the latter half of 2016.

With such a long lag time, “we incentivize the black market it we leave this unaddressed,” said Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany.

The number of dispensaries around the state has grown rapidly since the state started licensing them a year ago. Much of the growth comes from investors planning to shift over to exclusively serving recreational users once the OLCC starts licensing retailers. In the meantime, many dispensary owners pushed legislators to allow the early sales, saying it would be an economic lifeline for them.

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Anti-profiling bill gets final OK

administrator, 07/13/2015 10:15 pm

A bill on its way to Gov. Kate Brown will bar police from “profiling,” the broad use of race or other specified characteristics to identify criminal suspects.

The Senate approved House Bill 2002 on a 28-1 vote Wednesday, after the House passed it on a 55-4 vote last week.

According to the NAACP, Oregon is among 20 states that do not bar profiling. About a third of the states have special commissions to review complaints.

Profiling is “suspicion based on who you are rather than what you have done,” said Rep. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, the only African American member of the House, and one of the bill’s floor managers.

Although the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the bill — the product of negotiation involving law enforcement and minority groups — it was after extensive comments by Frederick and others on police interactions with the public.

Even as a state representative, Frederick said, police have stopped him disproportionately — and occasionally in his own gentrifying neighborhood.

“I will say these encounters have slowed down for me now, which I attribute to my gray hair,” said Frederick, who’s 63.

“But for kids walking around their neighborhood — kids who have been stopped many times — there is no such thing as a casual conversation with a police officer. They instantly have to be on their best behavior, and we hope what their parents have taught them isn’t crowded out by their frustration.”

Brown has signed other bills to regulate how police use body cameras to record their interactions with the public (HB 2571) and clarify use of video to capture police performing official duties in a public place (HB 2704).

“Profiling corrodes the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. “To eliminate profiling, we need to face it head on, recognize it, and provide the means to report and address the problem when it occurs.”

Differing reasons

While Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, voted for the bill, he said its definition of categories — 10 in addition to race, ethnicity and skin color — was overly broad. The bill exempts from the ban descriptions or information about specific suspects.

He also said the bill does not get to the real problems in interactions between police and some communities, and they must be dealt with through direct dialogue.

“We can legislate all we want to, but that is not going to change hearts,” said Olson, who spent 29 years in the Oregon State Police, retiring as a lieutenant.

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Marijuana regulations must cover pesticide use (OPINION)

administrator, 07/13/2015 10:13 pm

The recent Oregonian/OregonLive investigation, “A Tainted High,” brought needed awareness on illegal use of pesticides in the medical marijuana industry. It also shines a light on what’s to come regarding pesticide use on recreational marijuana.

The pesticide residue levels reported in the article are concerning, especially considering that they are consumed. The Oregon Department of Agriculture, which regulates pesticides, and the Oregon Health Authority, which regulates medical marijuana, should be taking this issue seriously and conducting a thorough investigation.

Pesticides are registered and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency at the federal level. Since marijuana is still federally classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, there are no pesticides approved for use on marijuana. This means that every application of a pesticide on marijuana is in violation of federal and state law. Unfortunately, some marijuana growers are ignoring those laws and using pesticides on their crops. This is not only illegal, but unsafe for patients and other consumers.

Before a pesticide is approved for use it goes through 10-12 years of development and testing. It is then labeled for use on specific crops at specific rates that have been scientifically verified for efficacy and safety.

None of this testing has been done on marijuana, so growers have no idea what pesticides, or how much, are safe to use. That is why it is not surprising to see The Oregonian/OregonLive find residues of pesticides on marijuana products that are far above the levels considered as acceptable by the EPA on food crops.

The scary truth is that the end users of these products have no assurances that they are not being exposed to pesticides at potentially harmful levels. This is particularly concerning as the products tested by The Oregonian/OregonLive are for medicinal purposes and are often used by a very vulnerable population that may already have compromised immune systems. No one should have to worry about whether their medicine is tainted with misused pesticides.

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National Guard soldiers complete protective services mission in Afghanistan

administrator, 07/13/2015 10:12 pm

Susie Doerfler of Corvallis didn’t hesitate when describing how she feels about having her son, Specialist Logan Doerfler, back from Afghanistan.

“We love having him home,” she said with a broad grin on her face.

Her husband, Damon, agreed wholeheartedly.

“He has grown up so much and has so many skills,” she added. “He has a real hunger for learning.”

Specialist Doerfler, a 2012 Crescent Valley High graduate, was one of 400 soldiers with the Oregon National Guard’s 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which participated in a demobilization ceremony Saturday morning at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center in Albany.

The battalion’s tour of duty spanned August 14, 2014, to May 1, 2015.

“I owned an Internet online business before we deployed,” Logan Doerfler said. “I sold it and now I’m going to enroll at Linn-Benton Community College to study surveying.”

His job in Afghanistan was to provide security for high level government and military officials engaged in discussions about the country taking over its own defense programs.

“It was really a unique experience for me,” he said. “It was very insightful to actually see what’s going on behind the scenes.”

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Represented: Paid Sick Time

administrator, 07/13/2015 10:11 pm

Portland has a paid sick leave policy, and Eugene passed a local law last year that’s set to go into effect in July. Both inspired contentious debate over how businesses and workers would be impacted. That same debate has been going on in Salem as lawmakers discuss the possibility of a statewide policy on paid sick leave. If that happens, it will preempt the Eugene ordinance, which puts employers in that city in a bit of an awkward position. The Eugene City Council passed a mandatory paid sick leave ordinance that would apply to all businesses, even those with only one employee. The statewide policy would likely apply to businesses with ten or more employees.

Mike Nesbitt is the president of Papa’s Pizza Parlor, which has several locations around Oregon. He says it’s important to make a distinction between full-time and part-time workers.

“The case can absolutely be made that if somebody is working full time at my pizza parlor, 40 hours a week, they will suffer if they have to miss a day of work, and so something needs to be done for them,” he says.

But part-time workers often have the opportunity to trade shifts at Papa’s, which Nesbitt says makes paid sick time unnecessary for those employees.

“If they miss time because they’re sick and want to make up that time, they have ample opportunity to do that.”

Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) points out that shift trading would still be an option under the proposed statewide policy.

“If the employer and employee both agree to it, we certainly do allow that without the use of paid sick time,” he said.

Holvey says he wouldn’t want to craft a policy that didn’t include part-time workers.

“We don’t want to see employers employing all part-time employees in order to stay out of compliance with this new legislation,” he explained.

Philip Carrasco and his wife, Jessica Allphin, both have part-time jobs and neither of them had the option of taking paid sick time this past winter when their kids got sick.

“It really is a major stressor for a family,” Carrasco says. “We have a six-year-old and a 15-month-old and if one got sick, then it made the rounds…Sometimes we would still go to work despite being sick.”

In addition to working with Oregon AFL-CIO, Carrasco is the Young Fathers Program Coordinator at Catholic Community Services of Lane County, which recently announced that employees will get paid sick time starting this summer.

Some employers would prefer to offer the more flexible option of paid time off, which could be used for sick days, vacation, or any reason an employee wanted to take time off. Sabrina Parsons is the CEO of Palo Alto Software in Eugene and she offers all 55 of her employees at least 3 weeks of paid time off.

“I feel like an employee should be able to decide how they want to use their time and it should have nothing to do with me,” says Parsons.

Parsons supports a statewide paid sick time policy. She explains, “I think something more flexible is absolutely better, but at this point anything is better than nothing.”

Dennis Morgan disagrees. He’s the he vice president of research for Renewable Resource Group, which does water and environmental testing for Lane County. He is concerned that if he’s forced to offer his employees paid time off rather than paid sick leave, that will give them an incentive to lie about why they’re taking time away from work.

“If someone wants to go do something else, we don’t want them telling us they’re sick,” he says. “We’d rather have them take the paid time off that they’ve accrued rather than lie to us.”

Rep. Andy Olson (R-Albany) shares Morgan’s concern. He says a mandated paid sick leave policy could hurt the relationship between employers and employees.

“Let’s face it, in every profession, every position that you consider, you’re going to have bad apples,” he said. “The abuse of this is going to occur.”

Holvey says there are ways to guard against employees misusing paid sick leave.

“If an employer suspects that an employee is abusing this, they have the right to ask for medical verification,” he said.

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