Facing a backlog of thousands of applications, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission announced Wednesday it will not process any new recreational marijuana licenses after June 15.

Anything that comes in after that date will be set aside for review after the new year, said Mark Pettinger, OLCC spokesman. As of May 23, the OLCC has received 3,432 applications for recreational laboratories, processors, producers, retailers, wholesalers and research, according to the OLCC list of submitted applications.

“We need to focus on what we have and maintain it and get caught up on the backlog,” Pettinger said. “We want people to be aware of it. We’ll continue to accept applications.”

The OLCC’s recreational marijuana section has had to borrow workers from other departments to help with the backlog, caused by spikes in license and worker applications, Pettinger said.

Since April 2016, the OLCC has issued 1,900 recreational marijuana licenses and another 29,000 worker permits.

“In order to ensure that the OLCC is fulfilling its regulatory duties and providing timely responses to businesses in the industry, we must focus on the current participants in the system and preserve for the Oregon Legislature its consideration of the necessity for further statutory controls on marijuana licensing in 2019,” OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks said in a prepared statement.

The decision was news to Bend resident Joe Stapleton, who has had his license application before the OLCC since April 2017 for a retail shop in La Pine. He is currently waiting for a Deschutes County land-use compliance form to be approved, he said. In anticipation of getting his license, Stapleton has been paying rent on his shop since February 2017, he said.

“I hope I’m not affected by this,” said Stapleton. “As long as I get everything done by Aug. 5, I should be OK. It is a bit frustrating.”

On any given day, the OLCC receives 15 to 30 marijuana worker applications in addition to renewals, changes in ownership and new licensing permits, Pettinger said. Applications will be considered submitted if the fees are paid and the application is filled out.

Adding to the workload, new regulations require the OLCC to process medical marijuana permits and require grow sites to register with the state’s Cannabis Tracking System by July 1. After that date, the OLCC will be responsible for compliance auditing and inspecting those growing facilities.

“We don’t have the authority to say no to applications for licenses,” Pettinger said. “We are being straight up with people. We have to tackle the work we have.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com