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Your tracks are covered at pot stores

Fear that the federal government may crack down on legalized marijuana has forced cannabis stores to rid themselves of any data that could be used to identify customers.

Under Senate Bill 863, the state now prohibits pot stores from recording, retaining or transferring any customer information.

“We had to purge our entire database,” said Brie Malarkey, owner of Breeze Botanicals in Gold Hill and Ashland. “It was tough. We had a lot of people upset. They wanted to know where all loyalty points went.”

Malarkey said customers who wanted to get back into a tracking system have to sign opt-in forms that contain only a limited amount of information.

Many stores kept information about previous sales on file, which could be useful for repeat purchasers. Stores are still required to check identification to make sure customers are 21 or older.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, who included an emergency clause that made the bill take effect immediately, after the federal government started making noise about cracking down on states that legalized marijuana.

"I think the takeaway is that we needed a defensive game, a just-in-case strategy," said Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland.

She said the Legislature also took steps to make it easier to suspend the licenses of stores or their personnel if they were engaged in illegal activity, including sending cannabis to the black market.

"We wanted to show the feds we've taken every step we possibly can to show that people that are involved in the pot business are doing so legally, and we're providing the proper oversight."

Senate Bill 1057 requires medical cannabis producers, processors, wholesalers and medical dispensaries to follow the same seed-to-sale tracking of products as the recreational industry, which is overseen by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The bill seeks to prevent any diversion of marijuana products into the black market by creating an anonymous database that tracks medical marijuana.

By cleaning up cannabis rules and regulations, the state may be a more difficult target for the federal government, she said. The feds still list marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, in the same category as heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote.

"We don't want to inspire them to come after us," Marsh said. "We are trying to play it as conservatively as we can."

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a frequent critic of the Obama administration's decision to take a hands-off approach to state marijuana programs.

Marijuana is now legal either medically or recreationally in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

Malarkey said she is concerned that the federal government could choose to make an example of legally operating marijuana enterprises in Oregon. She said it would be easy to go after law-abiding stores that pay tax money. Her stores employs 40 people, she said.

"Hopefully they won't go after us, but instead go after the cartels," Malarkey said. "In life, you do the best you can and put one foot in front of the other."

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.