Oregon ‘Pot Czar’ fired

POT NEWS: OLCC Executive Director confirms he was let go, after being hired in December; Portland businesses embrace pot entrepreneurship; Jackson Co. won’t tax for a year.

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Oregon Liquor Control Commission Executive Director Steven Marks confirmed he was let go Thursday after getting the job in December.

The reason why he was fired is unknown at this time, Willamette Week reports.

His ouster was sudden: Burns was scheduled to update the OLCC commissioners on the latest updates in the weed rule-making process tomorrow morning. OLCC officials said today Burns’ firing would not change the timeline for beginning the licensing process for legal-weed stores by January 2016. 

But sources tell WW the sudden decision is an upheaval for the Oregon Legislature as it tries to implement Measure 91.

“I’m dismayed to hear that Tom will no longer be serving in that role,” co-chair of the Legislature’s join commission on pot, Rep. Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego), said in Nigel Jaquiss’ story. “I’ve come to rely on his expertise and good judgment as we work to find our way forward. It’s a real loss for the committee and a real loss for people who care about Measure 91. That said, I look forward to working with his successor.”

Jaquiss’ sources said Burns clashed with OLCC chairman Rob Patridge — a claim the agency’s spokesman denied.

Will Higlin, the commission’s licensing director, will assume the position in the interim.

Legal marijuana advocates were surprised by the decision, OregonLive.com reports.

“Wow,” said Anthony Taylor, who leads Compassionate Oregon, a group that advocates for medical marijuana patients. He said Burns worked hard to build consensus as director of the dispensary program.

“His ability to interface with the Legislature, and being able to lay out a case for what we are trying to accomplish here, was pretty good,” Taylor said.

Kulongoski aids Warm Springs tribes with interpreting new rules

Former Gov. Ted Kulongoski is helping Warm Springs Tribes explore commercial marijuana.

The tribes were told in December that they would be treated the same as states by the federal government, Willamette Week reports.

As first reported in Wednesday’s Murmurs, Kulongoski, who serves on the Warm Springs tribes’ economic development board, and tribal and board member Pi-Ta Pitt have launched an evaluation of whether a commercial growing operation is something the tribes should try. 

“It’s something we have to start looking at, whether we want to or not,” Pitt says. “What we’ll do is really unknown at this point.”

The tribes see economic opportunity with the new rules, WW writes.

Willamette Week’s Aaron Mesh profiled  the local companies that are diving into the new market created by the passage of Measure 91. Read the story here.

RELATED NEWS: Green Rush — Cashing in on legal pot

Jackson Co. won’t tax for a year

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners expects to not place an additional tax on sales of recreational marijuana.

The board has decided unanimously, the Mail Tribune reports.

Recreational cannabis sales will be legal in Oregon July 1, under a state measure approved by voters last fall. That law imposes an excise tax on marijuana plants and products at the wholesale level but expressly prohibits local governments from imposing their own taxes on marijuana sales. Many city and county governments have imposed taxes anyway, arguing that such taxes would be grandfathered in they if were enacted before July. Breidenthal said there are a number of factors that shaped the board’s decision, including a desire to wait and see if the state legislature passes additional laws clarifying taxation and regulation of the legal marijuana marketplace. 

“We don’t want to do something and have them reverse it,” Breidenthal said.




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