Oregon Marijuana Legalization: 5 Things You Must Do Now to Prepare


With just one week left until marijuana possession becomes legal in Oregon, many questions loom around how to successfully launch a business in the new industry. Here are some smart tips on that from the Canna Law Blog’s Vince Sliwoski, an expert in this area of the law.

– Justin Runquist

Oregon’s recreational cannabis industry is finally on the fast track. The OLCC recently convened its rule making committees and HB 3400 (which implements Measure 91) appears primed to sail through the legislature.

On January 4, 2016, the OLCC will begin accepting license applications for commercial growers, processors, wholesalers and retailers. That’s everyone. With only six months to go, it’s time to get organized. Here are five basic steps all industry players should take to prepare.

  1. Get Your Team Together. As in any industry, the most successful entrepreneurs will be those with the best business advisers. Almost certainly, you will need representation from at least two professions before operations begin: accounting and law. Other business advisers, e.g. realtor, brand adviser, security advisor, banker and insurance agent, may also be crucial in making your business go.

There may be some overlap in the services these professionals will provide. For example, though a CPA probably will not help you file a permit application with the OLCC, either a CPA or attorney can help you file required tax identification documents. Getting your team together early, and keeping everyone on the same page, will help ensure success.

  1. Register Your Business. Register your business with the Oregon Secretary of State and get your corporate documents in place for the application process. With the expected avalanche of license applications, the OLCC can afford to be particular about the business documentation it will require (operating agreements, bylaws, stock certificates, etc.), and which businesses will ultimately get the green light.
  2. Get a Location, Location, Location. As already shown by the 2014 roll out of Oregon’s medical marijuana program, storefront locations will be highly coveted and highly regulated. The famous 1,000 foot rule that applies to medical dispensaries will almost certainly apply to recreational storefronts as well. High visibility corridors will be coveted. Growers, distributors and wholesalers will be fighting for space, too. With a flood of entrants into the market, locking down good space early is critical, especially in the western part of the state.
  3. Protect Your Business and Your Brand. Wholesalers, distributors and retailers will have proprietary information to protect from employee disclosure. A grower may have trade secrets that constitute its most valuable assets. All businesses will have employees with the capacity to become competitors overnight, unless the appropriate non-competes are in place. For more on this, check out Protecting Trade Secrets in the Marijuana Industry

And everyone has a brand. Branding will boost the most successful businesses to the forefront. While registering marijuana trademarks is still not happening at the federal level, state registration is key in establishing early rights. Savvy players will consider registration of auxiliary trademarks in D.C., as well. For more information on this, check out Cannabis Producers: You Need To Brand Your Cannabis Product and Cannabis Branding. Because It Is Important.

  1. Learn About and Track New and Changing (State and Local) Rules. As mentioned above, the OLCC recently convened committees to write rules for Measure 91 implementation, including for growers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. You can track the progress here (and HB 3400, here). In addition, counties and cities will have their own zoning, licensing and permitting laws. Keep a close watch on what is going on in your local jurisdiction. For more on this, check out Oregon’s New Recreational Marijuana Market (Sorry, Eastern Oregon) and Marijuana Zoning in Oregon: All Over the Map.

If you have already hit these markers, breathe easy. If you haven’t, there is still time to make a play in Oregon’s newest industry.

Vince Sliwoski, for the Canna Law Blog

Attorney with Harris Moure