Marijuana Worker Permits Add To Overregulation In Oregon

Are you thinking of moving to Oregon and working in the marijuana industry? 

It isn’t as easy as it used to be, as fear of the Cole Memo and Jeff Sessions motivates the state to collect money at every juncture in an attempt to regulate the product to keep the feds from their doorstep.

Keeping with its philosophy of making every penny it can from marijuana, Oregon is the only legal recreational cannabis state to require a “Marijuana Worker‘s Permit” for any job in the industry. That’s right; if you want to be a trimmer, a packager, a budtender, or even data entry clerk in a cannabis business, you must complete an application (and agree to a background check), take a test (open book), and pay $100 before you can legally work in the field.

According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) website, “All employees who perform work on behalf of an OLCC licensed producer, processor, wholesaler, or retailer, including the licensees working in a licensed business or managing information in CTS (cannabis tracking system) must possess a marijuana worker permit if they participate in any of the following:

•Possession, production, propagation, processing, securing or selling of marijuana items at the premises for which the license has been issued;

•Recording of the possession, production, propagation, processing, securing or selling of marijuana items at the premises for which the license has been issued;

•The verification of any document described in ORS 475B.170 (photo ID that proves the person is who she says she is and is over 21—or 18, if a patient or caregiver); or

•The direct supervision of a person described above.

Before you bother taking the test, note that you must be at least 21 years old, may not have had a permit revoked in the past two years, and the OLCC may deny a permit for certain felony convictions within the past three years. These include:

•Possession, manufacture, or delivery of a controlled substance. (Showing a touch of mercy to those who were involved with cannabis previously, the law does not allow them to consider marijuana possession offenses, or manufacture or delivery of marijuana that occurred two years or more in the past.)

•Crimes involving violence

•Crimes of dishonesty or deception, including theft, fraud, or forgery

•More than one conviction for any of the disqualifying crimes

Violation of any section of the Oregon marijuana laws is also disqualifying. Once denied, you cannot apply again for two years.

Passing the test, which appears to be aimed at budtenders, is not a problem. It is open book and you only have to score 70% to pass. The test, as well as the application, is online. Payment is not required until you pass the test and submit your application.

The worker permit is good for five years. But this does not seem like a great bargain for $100 when you consider that a Food Handler’s permit is only $10 and is good for three years. (In fact, for edible manufacturing work, a Food Handler’s permit seems more appropriate.)

An Alcohol Service permit is $23 (plus $25 to $40 for a mandatory training class contracted privately) and is also good for five years from the date the class was taken. I would argue that bartender and budtender are not that far apart—so why is a Marijuana Worker permit so much more expensive? To add insult to (financial) injury, the Alcohol Service permit is printed and sent by the OLCC, while the Marijuana Worker permit must be printed by the worker—so it costs the OLCC even less.

Employers in a cannabis business must verify that each employee has a permit, the employee must carry the card when performing work in the business and must also notify the OLCC if he or she is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.

Finally, hidden in the statute is a provision allowing OLCC to require additional training at any time, with adequate notice. So that $100 card may end up costing workers even more over time.

Welcome to the brave new world of cannabis commerce. Don’t be surprised if other states follow suit and begin charging their marijuana workers to pay for the privilege of working in the industry.

Cheryl K. Smith is a freelance writer and copyeditor for Cannabiz Journal, managing editor for Midwifery Today, and a long-time cannabis activist in Oregon.