With every update to the rules, I spend hours digesting them. More often than not, I end up penning a lengthy email to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), and Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) asking for clarification. It feels like I am following the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland to a mystical land of regulations, rules, and laws – seeking out the truth behind pesticide regulation. In this article, I am going to decipher these rules, but more importantly I want to breakdown the responsibilities of each state agency. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Well in our industry, knowledge also costs a lot of time, energy and money.
The first thing to understand when navigating Oregon’s expansive rule set, is everyone falls into two categories. A producer or processor will either fall into the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program or the Recreational Program. Even though both of these programs deal with the handling of cannabis products, it is important to note they have some different interpretations of the pesticides rules published by the OHA. To better understand why this is, we need to rewind the clock a little bit.
October 1st, 2016 will be remembered by laboratories throughout the state as the day we all came together under one standard prescribed by the Oregon Environmental Accreditation Laboratory Program (ORELAP). This program is nothing new for environmental laboratories, but it was of monumental impact to Oregon’s cannabis industry. It was a defining moment, showing that cannabis was normalizing in our society. On top of that, consumers could rest assured that their safety and well being was the number one priority of the industry. However, that wasn’t all that happened in the industry in Oregon that day. October 1 presented new rules and the start of recreational cannabis sales as well. Demand immediately shot through the roof for cannabis products, and dispensaries started to run dry. From this day forward, the pesticide rules would begin to shape that demand. Two major problems occurred here. First, only a couple of labs were able to gain their accreditation for pesticides due to a wealth of outside factors. Second, new and better equipment was in high demand, as older equipment was unable to perform to standard in the analysis of so many individual pesticides. The demand for testing far exceeded state wide capacity. Soon after this, the backlog for testing went from 5 days on average to 21+ days. Once the state took notice, the OHA gave the authority the OMMP and OLCC to flex the pesticide rules.
Effective September 30, 2016 until March 1, 2017, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, under OAR 845-025-5700, may issue an order to limit pesticide testing of usable marijuana meant for retail sale to consumers if OLCC staff finds there is insufficient lab capacity for 100% batch testing for pesticides.METRC GUIDE
The OHA stated that the authority regarding cannabis goes to OMMP for Medical and OLCC for recreational. The OLCC modified the recreational requirement by publishing the 33.3 percent rule, stating that only 33 percent of batches from a harvest lot required testing for pesticides as long as that same 33 percent passed. Now while that sounds great, not all things are equal for everyone! Medical producers are not eligible for this rule. After the OLCC began testing pesticides at a reduced rate, the OHA published some changes to the rules for everyone. This is where it all can get a little wild, as the new rule stated that batches of different strains could be combined to get a 10lb batch for testing pesticides. This is wonderful for the medical growers, and OMMP guidelines limit this rule to the same harvest lot. However, OLCC recently updated their guidance without the restriction of a single harvest lot. When asked for clarification, they stated that if this rule is used, the 33 percent rule can not be. In reality, it leaves a lot of choices up to producers and processors across the board.
As a reminder, OHA is responsible for publishing the rules, the OLCC interprets the rules for recreational cannabis and the OMMP is responsible for medical cannabis. It is also important to remember they do not always see eye to eye. One of the costliest mistakes a producer can make is to assume that OLCC guidance and medical guidance are one and the same. If you have any questions, I recommend that you reach out to the agency that manages your program and ask them about it. The staff at Juniper Analytics LLC is also more than happy to provide consultation to our clients to help you understand what solutions work best for your needs.