A three-year pause on issuing cannabis processing licenses in Oregon is finally over. But licenses for grow operations are still on hold until early next year.

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In May 2018, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission announced a temporary pause in processing new applications for licenses to process or sell recreational marijuana. Separately, the state Legislature paused licensing of grow operations, citing concerns about a glut in cannabis flooding the market.

The legislative pause expires on Jan. 2. Meanwhile, the OLCC has reworked how it handles applications to sell or process cannabis, agency spokesman Mark Pettinger told OPB’s Think Out Loud on Monday.

Three years ago, state cannabis regulators were facing more applications than they could efficiently and reasonably work through, in part because the application process itself was inefficient. OLCC staff found themselves doing the same work twice, or having to seek out details from applicants after the fact, rather than asking for all necessary details at the time of application. Now the agency has refined its processes.

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“First you crawl, then you walk, then you run. We had to build a fair amount of experience in our licensing staff,” Pettinger said. “It’s moved a lot faster than alcohol did after prohibition was ended.”

As the OLCC digs through through its backlog of applications, the agency is processing them in the order they were received.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has banned alcoholic drinks infused with the inactive ingredient of cannabis, CBD.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission offices in Milwaukie, Ore.

Kristian Foden-Vencil / OPB

Pettinger said the agency is also continuing to adapt and prepare for future licensing changes. This includes preparing for possible changes to federal law that would allow cannabis growers or producers to legally ship products outside state lines.

Asked if that could undermine Oregon-based businesses, he acknowledged that the industry that exists today could well change.

“In order to be able to work in this industry legally, you need to have a marijuana worker permit and you have to be an Oregon resident. For now this industry is employing a lot of Oregonians,” Pettinger said. “The question of ownership over the course of time — that’s going to be left to the course of time.”

Pettinger also said the OLCC is in the process of acquiring a new licensing system for both alcohol and cannabis that will be phased in over the next three years. The new system is a switch from a paper-based process to a digital one.

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