Citing an unmanageable backlog of recreational marijuana license applications and difficulty meeting its responsibilities to existing licensees, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) announced today that it will “pause” review of new recreational license applications effective June 15, 2018. The OLCC will also reallocate staff from licensing review to compliance and enforcement, focusing on the fall 2018 recreational outdoor harvest and registration of medical marijuana sites with the state’s Cannabis Tracking System (CTS), which registration is required by July 1, 2018.

This OLCC action presumably responds to the Williams Memo, explained in a previous post, which called out overproduction and interstate trafficking of Oregon cannabis as top federal enforcement priorities. The OLCC, however, cannot unreasonably delay review of license applications (see ORS 475B.060). Although the OLCC lacks authority to unreasonably delay license review, and certainly has no authority to limit the number of licensees, it does have broad authority to carry out the intent of the applicable statutes (see ORS 475B.025).

Given ongoing frustration from applicants and licensees at the OLCC’s lengthy wait times and the well-publicized over-production issue and its consequences for both intrastate wholesale prices and the black market, today’s OLCC decision appears a prudent reallocation of resources. We reserve the right to adjust our opinion if the “temporary suspension” continues indefinitely.