Listening session hears this: keep marijuana away from minors

Area residents told policymakers they do not want minors to have access to recreational marijuana and they want parents to handle educating children about the substance.

The messages came out Thursday night at the Pendleton Convention Center during the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s kickoff to developing regulations for Measure 91, the state’s recreational pot law voters approved last November. More than 80 people attended the two-hour session to give feedback and learn about the law. The commission held its first listening session earlier Thursday in Baker City and OLCC chairman Rob Patridge said eight more sessions are in the works.

The crowd worked in small groups to list priorities it wants the OLCC to consider. Protecting children came up over and again, especially through clear packaging, limiting pot advertising and stiff penalties for selling to minors.

Most participants also wanted some kind of educational advertising and said the state needs to promote parents as responsible to educate children about pot. Some stressed education about marijuana should be unbiased and fact-based.

Patridge, who in his day job is the district attorney of Klamath County, explained to the audience that the law gave the liquor commission the job of regulating recreational pot and approving retail pot sales licenses for the new market. Possessing up to 8 ounces of pot and four plants in your home becomes legal under the state law July 1, but Patridge said OLCC rulemaking will take place March through October, and the commission must start approving retail sales licenses Jan. 4, 2016.

“As you can see, we’re on a pretty tight timeline,” he said.

Some in the crowd, including Pendleton City Councilman Chuck Wood, lamented what they saw as a backward approach of allowing marijuana before rules are in place.

Thursday’s gathering ended with a question and answer session, and the big takeaway is that a lot of unknowns remain. Patridge said there are people already lobbying for a changes to the law in the forthcoming Legislature.

Before the public session, Patridge and staff had a closed-door meeting with local law and enforcement and city leaders, including Pendleton police Chief Stuart Roberts, Hermiston police Capt. Travis Enyon and Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan. After the public session, Patridge said cops and civic heads were like the rest of Oregonians: seeking to understand what the law means. He said the OLCC will help local governments “draw clear lines” regarding the law.

To find out more about Measure 91, the OLCC set up www.marijuana.oregon.gov.

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