The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has about a nine-month backlog of applications for recreational marijuana licenses. It made a reasonable decision to work first on reducing the backlog before getting around to new applications.
But one of the justifications for the new policy is wrong. OLCC says it decided to change its policy in part to give the Legislature a chance to change the rules. The OLCC should abide by existing laws — not predictions about what the law might be.
What got our attention was the last part of this statement by Steve Marks, executive director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission: “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.”
The Legislature may or may not pass new pot legislation in 2019. If there is an emergency need for further statutory controls, there should be a special legislative session. State agencies shouldn’t be deciding for themselves what the law should be.
The OLCC announced its decision to focus on the backlog on May 30. It said it would take effect on June 16. The new policy did not mean that OLCC is now refusing to accept new applications. It is just not processing them. It is focusing on processing the applications already received.
The two-week delay in implementation had at least one unintended consequence. Matt Van Sickle, an OLCC spokesman, said after the announcement OLCC received a flood of new applications. It has more than 700 applications being reviewed and more than 500 applications that are not yet assigned to an investigator for review.
The OLCC has issued about 1,900 recreational marijuana licenses since 2016. It’s right to focus first on bringing down the size of the backlog, but it’s improper for a state agency to set policy based on a guess about what the Legislature may do.