Co-founder and secretary of the Oregon SunGrown Growers’ Guild
Politicking can be seen as the necessary evil of the cannabis industry.
Those operating in this nascent industry are learning quickly that the only way to ensure sensible legislation in the new world of legal marijuana is to have a seat at the negotiating table.
The result is an interesting dynamic of people that have largely avoided interaction with each other — legislators and the previously underground cannabis entrepreneurs — coming together to hash out regulations.
Lorianne Carey is one individual who’s been at the forefront of this political tug-of-war in Oregon.
In addition to being a professional herbalist and medical cannabis grower, Carey is the co-founder and secretary of the Oregon SunGrown Growers’ Guild, a non-profit advocacy group for growers and patients. The association was formed as a grassroots effort to advance, promote and preserve the unique interests of patients and small family farmers. The association was founded about six months prior to Oregon voters approving Measure 91, which legalized marijuana for recreational use and set in motion the state’s rulemaking process for the cannabis industry.
The association, which is led by a nine-person board, has grown to about 120 members in the year and a half it’s been in operation. Four of those members have been involved in different rules committees for the state.
Carey, who said her forte is “making the connections and weaving the web,” said the guild has already made a positive impact on regulations for outdoor cannabis cultivators primarily located in Southern Oregon. As part of the association’s mission to educate the powers that be, Carey has welcomed numerous legislators and rulemakers to cannabis farms in Oregon’s version of the Emerald Triangle. It’s an important first step to show them “we’re ready to come out of the shadows and into the light,” Carey said.
Carey said she’s careful not to start the rhetoric of outdoor versus indoor cultivation, or medical versus recreational cannabis. But, she acknowledged different sectors of the industry often stand on opposite sides of an issue. For example, security has been a major question mark. Would security cameras be required, and would some form of Internet connection be required? Carey said a lot of cannabis gardens don’t even have electricity in Southern Oregon. Just the process of hooking a farm up to electricity could cost some farm owners thousands of dollars, she said.
Meanwhile, one of the major discussion points is about maintaining small family farms. Carey said she doesn’t want to see the medical program “emaciated” from the very opening of the recreational sector.
Carey’s own operation fits perfectly with the family farm motif. She’s been growing cannabis under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program for about 10 years, in addition to vegetables and herbs for more than 20 years on her 30-acre organic farm in Williams. She’s a member of the American Herbalist’s Guild and operates Apothecare, her non-cannabis herbal clinic and dispensary, at the farm.
While the Oregon SunGrown Growers’ Guild has had some “victories” so far in the rulemaking process, Carey said a lot of work remains.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” she said.
The association will continue to fight in favor of residency requirements, sufficient plant counts and equitable canopy parity for outdoor growers who are only growing one harvest per year. Industrial hemp and its proximity to the thousands of medical marijuana growers in Southern Oregon is also an ongoing concern, she said.
The group is also working as hard as it can to ensure sealed packaging never comes to Oregon, she said.
“(Consumers) need to have your nose lead the way,” she said.
“I just have a sneaking suspicion the five elements affecting our plants the way they do is going to make for broader, richer terpene profiles,” she added.
The rulemaking process requires members to focus vigilantly on the details. Critical regulations could come down to a single line in a bill, Carey said.
She and other original members of the association joke about early meetings in the local park, looking back at how naïve they were about 18 months ago.
“We had our hands more full than we possibly could have imagined,” Carey said.