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Breathing room

The Senate should take another look at a bill to ease pressure on the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which is scrambling to keep up with demand for cannabis production licenses.

Senate Bill 218 would let the OLCC refuse to issue new production licenses based on the supply and demand for marijuana. Senators voted the bill down two weeks ago, 17-13, with lawmakers from both parties expressing a reluctance to protect private businesses from competition. Ordinarily, that would be a valid concern. But the state’s fledgling marijuana industry is not just another business.

Marijuana is a tightly controlled product. Despite legalization of the drug in a growing number of states, it is still illegal under federal law, and diversion of surplus production into other states where it remains a black-market item is still a concern.

The OLCC reports there is 6.5 years’ worth of supply in the market. The OLCC has struggled to keep up with demand for licenses and renewals, and imposed a “pause” on new applications last June while it attempted to clear a backlog.

The Senate sent SB 218 to the Rules Committee, which added a sunset clause ending the OLCC’s ability to deny new licenses after Jan. 2, 2022. Backers hope that will convince senators to approve the measure.

Oregon’s marijuana industry has the potential to make a positive contribution to the state’s economy, but continues to suffer from growing pains. Giving the OLCC a temporary tool to manage the market is a reasonable way to address the oversupply problem.

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