Oregon Lawmakers Seek to Protect Marijuana Consumers' Personal Information

Policymakers and marijuana industry leaders prepare for potential action to enforce federal marijuana policy.

Marijuana Businesses to Destroy Personal Info Within 48 Hours

Oregon lawmakers are making moves to protect the personal information of marijuana consumers. Over the past week, there has been growing concern about the future of marijuana in the United States. As a result,Oregon's committee in charge of marijuana policy has drafted new legislation.

The proposed bill would require marijuana businesses, such as dispensaries, to destroy their customers' personal information within 48 hours.

Patrons at Amazon Organics, a marijuana dispensary in Eugene, Oregon.
Amazon Organics is a marijuana dispensary in Eugene, Oregon. Legislators want dispensaries like this to erase the personal information of its patrons. Source: New York Times

Eight states in the U.S. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for citizens over the age of 21. However, many shops in Oregon go beyond checking IDs to verify the ages of their customers. Shops keep an internal log of personal details like names, addresses, birth dates, and driver's license numbers. This log supposedly helps marijuana consumersbuy products when they forget specific names.

Donald Morse, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council says this is typical practice for a business. "The reason we keep that information is to reach out to them-it's marketing, just like any retailer."

Yet, manydisagree with this practice. This includes Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. "We don't really track people's purchases to any real degree for things like alcohol," said Lindsey. "Why would the government need that information about me?"

Additionally, retaining this personal information defies conventions set by other states. Colorado and Alaska, which have legalizedmarijuana for recreational use, prohibit stores from keeping this information. And while not prohibited in Washington, the practice is not encouraged.

A bipartisan response to the threat of federal interference

The timing of this bill is likely due to recent statements from the White House. Last week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated that one could expect "greater enforcement" of federal law when it comes to marijuana legalization. As a result, there has been concern that federal agents could seize marijuana consumers' personal information.

"I could see where the federal government from businesses that have stockpiled it and retained it in their records," said State Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-OR). Prozanski is also a sponsor of this bill. "I think we as legislators have a duty to protect our citizens."

The retentionof this information has additional potential repercussionsfor marijuana consumers. Consequently, the bill has drawn support from both sides of the aisle. Oregon's Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli is also a bill sponsor.

"When you go to purchase a firearm, you have to fill out a background check, and there's a specific question about marijuana use on that form," Ferrioli explained. "I would hate to think that some misguided effort at the federal level to coordinate the client lists that could be confiscated in the absence of this (proposal) with the firearms purchase lists."

Oregon's promise to protect its marijuana legislation

The first hearing for this bill was set for Tuesday, March 7. In order forthe bill to pass, the full Oregon Legislature and Governor Kate Brown (D) must approve it. Given Governor Brown's stance against federal intervention on state marijuana law, this seems likely.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown speaking at a podium. But in the event of such intervention, Oregon legislators hope to protect the personal information of marijuana consumers.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D) vowed to push back against federal intervention in state marijuana policy.
Source: Huffington Post

In February, the governor attended a private meeting between the president and governors in February. She revealed that the administration wants states to be able to craft their own policies. Federal government, the president said at this meeting, should not interfere with the states.

"[Trump] wants to give the states a relative amount of freedom and flexibility," said Governor Brown. "So we will be asking for that around, for example, marijuana policy."

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Woman holding a nug of marijuana over a jar.
Image of a woman passing a marijuana (cannabis) joint to a friend.

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