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Last night, hundreds of curious Oregonians came together at Revolution Hall for a forum on the future of cannabis and the cannabis industry. Part of the “Big Idea” series sponsored by The Oregonian, the panel comprised Congressman Earl Blumenauer; Dave Kopilak, an attorney with Emerge Law Group; Rob Patridge, chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC); and Noah Stokes, CEO of CannaGuard Security.

Though the diverse panel was able to address issues across the cannabis spectrum, Rob Patridge, OLCC Chairman, was the star of the show. A former drug prosecutor from Medford, Oregon, Chairman Patridge admitted that it’s not rare to run into industry actors who, years ago, he put in jail on cannabis charges. Despite this about-face, Patridge seems to be a diligent regulator who faces the oddities of the cannabis industry – particularly some of the more cartoonish strain names – with restrained bemusement. Commenting on recent restrictions on strain names judged to appeal to children – Bruce Banner, for example – Patridge highlighted the fact out of over 500 submitted strain names, fewer than 20 strain names were rejected. “Use your common sense”, Patridge cautioned attendees, “Walk through your local toy store. Anything that you see in there isn’t a good name for your strain of marijuana.”

Representative Blumenauer, the leading proponent of regulated cannabis in the United States House of Representatives, addressed issues relating to the federal and state regulatory overlap and movement in the US Congress on easing banking and financial services regulation for the cannabis industry. He also pointed to legislation that is progressing through Congress to ensure that veterans with medical marijuana prescriptions do not risk losing their federal benefits. Encouragingly for the cannabis industry, Representative Blumenauer reassured the crowd that in his correspondence with Secretary Clinton, she indicated an inclination to continue the hands-off federal approach of the Obama Administration. However, Blumenauer cautioned that the Drug Enforcement Agency continues to be “schizophrenic” with regards to its marijuana enforcement policy and does not always align with executive enforcement priorities.

Dave Kopilak, of Emerge Law Group, which specializes in cannabis law, spoke to a number of attendees who were interested in entering the market. Two landowners asked questions about legal concerns related to leasing land to cultivators and processors. Kopilak’s worrisome opening admonition of “the entire business model violates federal law” was followed by much more reassuring comments on the ease of doing business in Oregon. Indeed, despite fears that smaller players will be pushed out of the market, Kopilak pointed to high licensing fees in other states, insisting that “[Oregon] is about as accommodating to small business as you get.”

Much is still up in the air. Recent changes to the testing regime have caused friction with producers, a problem that state officials are aware of. At the federal level, movement on banking seems in the pipeline, but the timeline is unclear. It’s rare to see a cannabis industry forum with the diversity and heavy hitters that The Oregonian brought together. We hope to see more events like this in the future.

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