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Portland, Oregon, May Allow Delivery-Only Cannabis Retailers

December 20, 2016

The Portland City Council will consider introducing a license for delivery-only cannabis retailers at its weekly meeting this Wednesday.

If the Oregon city votes to implement the proposal, it will be the nation’s first delivery-only retail cannabis licensing scheme.

Introduced by City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the city’s cannabis program, the ordinance would amend the city’s cannabis business regulations to allow “marijuana retail couriers,” solely confined to selling cannabis via delivery. These businesses could receive orders daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with no deliveries allowed after 9 p.m.

The goal of the ordinance is to expand opportunities for “microbusiness entrepreneurs” to enter the cannabis marketplace. Cannabis delivery services in Portland will be subject to most of the same rules and regulations as storefront retail cannabis shops. A delivery service’s point of origin, or headquarters, must be at least 1,000 feet from schools and other cannabis businesses, although deliveries would be permitted to houses that fall within those ranges.

A few other caveats must be taken into consideration, according to the proposed ordinance. A delivery service’s cannabis must be kept in a locked and clearly labeled container, and a driver may not carry more than $3,000 worth of cannabis in the vehicle at any one time.

Restructuring the Licensing Process

Delivery licenses aren’t the only possible change coming to Portland. As part of the same ordinance, the city council will also consider creating new categories for licenses, including a tier for “micro-producers” who cultivate no more than 625 square feet of cannabis plants, a tier for “micro-producers” who will be cultivating up to 1,250 square feet, and a third tier for “micro-wholesalers” who buy seeds or immature cloned plants from other micro-producers for resale.

Several other cannabis-related amendments will be up for consideration at tomorrow night’s meeting, including a change of operating hours for marijuana businesses to align with the state’s hours (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.), and allowing a five-day grace period for medical dispensaries to transition to become retailers once they receive a license from the state.

The amendments were introduced in an effort to speed up the application process, which is currently backlogged and has been for several months. The ordinance would allow retailers to receive their license from the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which is tasked with managing the dispensary and retailer application process. There are 534 retail license applications in the pipeline, of which 320 are currently under review by the city.

Many businesses are still awaiting building permits, which must meet code standards for plumbing, lighting, and ventilation, before they can proceed to the next step, which is to have their application approved by the city. The process is somewhat complicated by the fact that although the city approves licenses, it’s up to the state to conduct financial and background checks.

The deadline for marijuana businesses to be officially licensed looms on the horizon, as business owners are scrambling to obtain a coveted license before January 1, 2017. Medical dispensaries have been conducting retail sales since October 1, 2015, but as of January 1, 2017, will no longer be able to conduct retail sales without a license, and many dispensaries are concerned for their livelihood.

During the City Council meeting last week, Commissioner Fritz took pains to reassure anxious cannabis business owners still awaiting approval.

“We want to be very clear that the city and the Cannabis Policy Program will not be taking enforcement measures against any legally operating marijuana business that is currently waiting in line for its recreational license to be issued,” she told retail applicants, who might otherwise face shutdown while awaiting licensure.

The amendments will be discussed during a second reading at the Portland City Council meeting on Wednesday, December 21st.

Lisa Rough's Bio Image
Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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