Oregon Passes Law Protecting Marijuana Consumers


Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill on Monday that prohibits marijuana retailers from sharing or keeping identity information about customers.

Oregon lawmakers have passed a bill to protect marijuana consumers from having their identities or details of their cannabis transactions from being kept or shared by retailers. Senate Bill 863, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, was introduced in response to a heightened concern over a federal crackdown.

Under the new law, Oregon marijuana retailers have 30 days to destroy their customers’ data from databases and are prohibited from keeping records about customers and their purchases in the future. It was one of the first bills signed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown this session.

“I think it’s appropriate under the circumstances,” Brown said after signing the bill.

Classified as a Schedule I substance, marijuana remains illegal federally. Oregon and seven other U.S. states, however, have passed laws legalizing and regulating adult use marijuana, and 29 have legalized marijuana for medical use.

The Obama administration had managed the situation with a “hands off” approach, allowing states to pass and implement cannabis laws without interference. Over the past few months, officials in the Trump administration have made comments suggesting that there may be greater enforcement of federal cannabis laws. The bill’s signing is Brown’s willingness to protect and “go to bat” for Oregon’s marijuana industry.

Marijuana retailers had commonly been collecting customer data, including personal information and purchasing history, for marketing and customer service purposes. The data is often collected from customers’ driver’s licenses or other forms of identification without their knowledge or consent. The new law abolishes that common business practice to eliminate any digital paper trail of recreational marijuana customers. Buyers do have the option to sign up for dispensary email lists and the law does not apply to medical marijuana patients.

Similar protections are already in place in the three other states with operational recreational markets. Alaska and Colorado have passed laws protecting customers. Washington state follows self-imposed industry standards of customer protection.

The measure had passed with a vote of 53-5 the House before being sent to Gov. Brown to sign into law.

“Given the immediate privacy issues … this is a good bill protecting the privacy of Oregonians choosing to purchase marijuana,” said state Rep. Carl Wilson, a Republican who helped sponsor the bill.

Oregon generated $60.2 million in tax revenue from an estimated $241 million in sales in 2016, and a recent report from an Oregon economist estimates that the state’s marijuana market has already had an economic impact of more than $1 billion.

Brown and the governors of Colorado, Washington, and Alaska collectively wrote an open letter earlier this month directed to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, urging them to not interfere with the marijuana industry. Five of seven U.S. voters oppose a federal government crackdown on marijuana businesses that comply with state law, and market analysts predict that that the nation’s cannabis industry will continue to grow by double-digits regardless of resistance from the Trump administration.

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