Cannabis Consultants: The Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee

words by Julio Jaquez

The passing of Oregon’s Legalized Marijuana Initiative, more commonly referred to as Measure 91, has produced a massive economic boom that has left many questioning its adolescent regulatory practices. Approved by Oregon voters on November 4, 2014, Measure 91 legalized the sale and usage of recreational marijuana for those ages 21 and older. With this massive responsibility of transforming Oregon’s historically illicit cannabis market into a legal and regulated one, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the OLCC, was tasked with regulation: introducing the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

Alongside the five governor-appointed citizen commissioners who set the policies for the OLCC,  the Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee (RAC) was required to be established if Measure 91 was enacted. As of 2014, the RAC was birthed out of legalization of cannabis  that tasked the committee with responsibilities such as assisting and advising the commission on how to properly regulate and develop Measure 91 as the industry continues to blossom. With a total of 16 members, half of the committee are dispensary owners, cannabis growers, manufactures, and processors, while the other half are state commissioners, law enforcement and members working within the state government. Members are invited to be a part of the RAC, and the range of work fields within the committee are deliberate in order to gather a diverse set of perspectives. Appointed in 2015, Ryan JD Christensen, a then small-business owner with no skin in the cannabis game, was invited on to offer a neutral standpoint on the committee.

Ryan JD Christensen, now Vice President of FORTUNE, a company based out of Portland, partners with the cannabis industry to strategically market and creatively package consumer goods out to the legal cannabis market. Ryan began as a creative consultant, working with brands like Red Bull, Nike, Adidas and Whole Foods with no real involvement with the cannabis industry. Ryan’s involvement with the cannabis industry initiated once the legalization of recreational marijuana was passed in Colorado and Washington. “I started freelancing and advising or just seeing if I could sit down with more cannabis companies to talk about branding and their marketing needs if and when Oregon would become a recreational state,” says Christensen, explaining how his career focus was positioned within the cannabis industry.

From February to October 2018, Ryan worked with HiFi Farms, nicknamed the “The Coolest Cannabis Farm in Oregon” by Esquire Magazine. He strategically began to introduce a variety of new products like shatter, pre-rolls and other forms of cannabis infused products to the consumer market. With a stable four year membership within the committee, Ryan explains that the committee connects frequently via email, phone call or even in-person at the OLCC office and offers advice about a plethora of subjects pertaining to cannabis. Another part of being on the committee is being an advocate and allowing yourself to be tapped on the shoulder to help inform those interested about the cannabis industry. “Our answers are not gold. Our answers do not represent the state of Oregon. Our answers are not representative of the OLCC,” expressing that his role within the committee is simply to advise and inform. Considering the committee meets about four times a year, his interaction with others on the committee is limited, but Ryan explains that his willingness to connect members within the cannabis community to previous members of the RAC helps dry the cement within the industry in Oregon.

A previous member on the RAC, Mowgli Holmes, CEO and co-founder of Phylos Bioscience created an agricultural genomics company whose mission is to map out the evolutionary process of the cannabis plant. Alongside his team, Mowgli is focused on extracting and sequencing DNA from every cannabis sample collected. These findings have been placed into visualization by using the 3D map identified as the “Phylos Galaxy” that illustrates the cannabis family tree in order to create a better understanding of traits of each individual strain. With reports from 2016 indicating that Mowgli and his team have documented a total of 1,000 strains, Mowgli claims that currently his team at Phylos Bioscience have now mapped out a total of 3,000 strains, which the company shares on their website. Although Holmes is no longer on the committee, his role as a plant scientist is to continue educating and developing the cannabis industry using big data collection, technology and expertise in order to properly categorize and evaluate various strains.

With members like Mowgli and Ryan, who come from diverse fields of work, the OLCC utilizes the committee’s wide array of perspectives to review and offer advice on proposed regulations. The committee’s advice generally adds significant weight in rule making, but the overall mission of the Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee is to keep the Oregon cannabis industry thriving.

For more information regarding the OLCC and everything else that entailed with the passing of Measure 91, visit www.oregon.gov/olcc

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