Oregon Marijuana: Employee Permits and Employer Liability

Oregon Marijuana: Employee Permits and Employer Liability

In state level marijuana programs, compliance is king.

Last week we wrote about the final, permanent rules for the Oregon Liquor Control Commissions (OLCC) recreational marijuana program. In that post, we mentioned that all cannabis business employees must hold a marijuana worker permit, not just retail employees. We also mentioned that information about the permit testing and licensing process was not yet available.

This week, it is.

The OLCC page on marijuana worker permits is here and the FAQ page is here. For a trio of high level points: (1) the permit requirement applies even to seasonal workers like marijuana trimmers; (2) all workers are subject to background checks (a felony automatically disqualifies); and (3) the permit requirement does not apply to anyone working in the Oregon Health Authoritys Medical Marijuana Program, or to lab and research certificate employees. In fact, there do not appear to be any credentialing requirements on the horizon for employees in those spaces.

The OLCC is also requiring potential permittees create an online account and take and pass an online exam. I took the test last night: it involves 30 multiple choice questions, some of which have incorrect answers that should make applicants smile: e.g., yes, it is alright to sell marijuana to old people; no, it is not alright to use marijuana on site to demonstrate how a product works. The test is a minimum competency offering: 21 correct answers (70%) counts as a pass.

Despite the fun wrong answers, the test does require familiarity with each level of the Oregon recreational cannabis program, from seed to sale. Before sharpening their pencils, applicants are encouraged to study the permit education workbook, available in English and Spanish. The workbook contains some provisions important for employers. Specifically, beginning on page 8, the section called Violations and Sanctions lays out a remarkably intricate 5-tiered system for sanctions based on the severity of violation. The bottom of page 9 reveals the following:

The OLCC typically cites its licensees and permittees administratively. Administrative sanctions will affect your permit and/or your employers license, but have no criminal consequences attached to them. However, the fact that the OLCC issues an administrative violation does not protect you or your employer from criminal or civil liability. Certain violations may warrant criminal prosecution as well. In some cases (particularly those involving sales to a visibly intoxicated person or to a minor that result in injuries), permittees and licensees can also face civil liability. Therefore, it is extremely important to follow all the rules at all times. If you ever have any questions about whether you are compliant, contact your local OLCC office ...

Read More