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Senate OKs proposal to shield pot users' data

SALEM — A proposal to shield the names, birthdates, driver's license numbers or any other identifying information of potentially thousands of recreational pot customers cleared its first major hurdle at the Oregon Legislature this week amid worries over a federal marijuana crackdown.

Senate Bill 863 — a proposal from the 10-member bipartisan committee that crafts Oregon's marijuana policies— cleared the Senate on Tuesday and heads to the House for consideration.

The bill's bipartisan sponsors want to put a stop to what's become a common practice within Oregon's budding pot industry, where legal retailers often stockpile the names, birthdates, addresses, driver's license numbers and other private information of each recreational customer that walks through their doors. Such activity is either prohibited or discouraged in Alaska, Colorado and Washington state.

Should the proposal become law, pot retailers would have 30 days to destroy their recreational customers' data — derived from the driver's licenses, passports or military IDs that are used to verify patrons are at least 21 — and would be banned from such record-keeping moving forward. Medical marijuana cardholders' data would be excluded from the provisions.

Pot businesses say the data is used mostly for marketing purposes, such as email lists for promoting products with special deals and birthday discounts, which the bill would still allow in some instances if the customer voluntarily shares their name and email.

Sen. Ted Ferrioli, Republican minority leader and one of the bill's sponsors, says it's a major privacy concern for not only Oregon residents, but potentially federal employees, concealed-weapon permit holders and out-of-state visitors.

"I don't have to tell you of the frequency of hacking incidents or inadvertent releases of data ... the loss of this information could be damaging for many different reasons," Ferrioli said Tuesday on the Senate floor. "We've heard a lot of conflicting information about the (White House) administration's approach to cannabis."

A customer is helped at the Herbal Remedies cannabis store Nov. 9, 2016, in Salem. Lawmakers in the Oregon Senate have approved a bill that would shield thousands of recreational pot customers from having their names, birthdates, driver's license numbers or any other identifying information exposed. [AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File]