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Oregon bills to make cannabis banking, investment easier sail forward
by Mason Walker | Interactive Editor Portland Business Journal
Published on Monday February 22, 2016    1:59 PM     
 
Three bills to amend Oregon's marijuana laws are expected to pass into law this month.

Bills to eliminate residency requirements for pot business ownership, give lenders legal protections and combine medical and recreational cannabis retail outlets all moved forward easily in the Oregon Legislature last week, though none have yet become law. While all relate to cannabis, the three bills seek to achieve a variety of outcomes for the young industry.

House Bill 4094 aims to address the "duffel bag full of cash" conundrum that plagues the legal marijuana industry. Due to the substance's federal illegal status, many lenders are wary of providing financial services to cannabis companies. The bill explicitly exempts lenders from state criminal liability under Oregon law.

If passed, it's unclear whether lenders will begin offering services due to the federal legal situation. HB 4094 passed the Oregon Senate by a 56-3 vote. It will now head to the Oregon House.

Oregon first legalized medical marijuana in 1998, creating a network of patients and clubs that defined the state's above-board cannabis identity until recreational use was legalized in 2014. Lawmakers made several changes to the medical program in 2015 to adapt to the new, broader legality of cannabis.

Now, Senate Bill 1511 aims to further combine the two laws, clearing the way for recreational outlets to sell tax-exempt cannabis to card-holding medical marijuana patients. SB 1511 will likely receive a Senate vote this week.

House Bill 4014 eliminates a requirement that cannabis business owners in Oregon need to have at least two years of state residency. The requirement initially intended to favor and protect small, locally owned operations at the beginning of recreational legalization.

As the industry grows, however, many business owners have called for an end to the rule as it blocks them from landing outside equity investment to help grow their companies. HB 4014 passed both the House and Senate and will head to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown to be signed into law.

Other efforts to amend Oregon's recreational and medical cannabis laws will likely continue in future legislative sessions. In an analysis of legal marijuana, research firm Arcview Group predicted Oregon's industry could reach $1 billion in sales by 2020. Mason oversees the Business Journal's multimedia arm and helps guide digital strategy in the newsroom. He loves when people send him news tips or story ideas.

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