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Oregon ‘Marijuana Czar’ Firing Creates Many Questions


fired marijuana jobTom Burns was the head of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and oversaw the roll out of dispensary licenses. He toured the state participating in speaking engagements, and was considered by many within Oregon state government to be the ‘go to’ guy on marijuana policy. So it didn’t surprise anyone when Tom Burns left the Oregon Heath Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) to take the lead on implementing marijuana legalization at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). But after just three months on the job with the OLCC, Tom Burns was abruptly fired.

Rumors started swirling immediately as to why Tom Burns was fired. There was speculation that he was just hard to work with, and as an at will employee, he was let go as a result of conflicting personalities. The OLCC was quick to say that it wasn’t a personality issue that resulted in the termination of employee. After about a day, it became known that the reason that Tom Burns was fired was because he had leaked a confidential rule making document. The document listed three names, although while Tom Burns is on the hook for the leaked document, the three people listed on the leaked document are not. Marijuana Politics was the first I saw to break the story of the leaked document. Per the article posted on Marijuana Politics:

I have learned from an anonymous source with intimate details of the ouster of Tom Burns, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s Director of Marijuana Programs for the past three months, was partly due to an improper leak of a work-in-progress internal document that was being reviewed by OLCC staff. Tom Burns leaked the working document to Oregon attorney Amy Margolis who then shared the document with others. The release of the working document caused headaches for the OLCC and complicated the process of reaching a consensus on important issues regarding the regulation of marijuana in Oregon. Apparently, Burns lied about the leakand tried to cover his tracks.

It has been common knowledge among the marijuana community that Ms. Margolis and Mr. Burns were very close allies. Margolis, in addition to being an attorney, is the Director and founder of the Oregon Cannabis PAC, formerly knows as the Oregon Growers PAC. The PAC has hired lobbyist (and dispensary owner and grower) Geoff Sugerman as well as the firm State Street Solutions. It is unclear if the leaking of this document has any confidentiality or ethical concerns for Ms. Margolis and her PAC. While the OLCC is claiming that she has no culpability in the matter,  I am curious as to how the Oregon Ethics Commission or the Oregon State Bar will feel about Amy Margolis’ role if Burns told Margolis that it was a working policy document and she characterized it differently to whoever she showed the document to, for instance. Additionally, if reporters get a hold of his emails (as I imagine they will), will there be more damaging information released, for both Burns and Margolis?

That article broke at 1:47 p.m. on March 27th (Friday). By 2:05, 420Radio.org broke the news on Twitter that Amy Margolis had an ethics complaint filed against her:



As soon as there is a link to info about the ethics complaint, I’ll make sure to add them to this article (I have talked to people close to the filing, but I don’t want to speculate until there is something I can link to). Public record requests have been filed by several entities, and it will be very interesting to see what, if anything, anyone finds. One of the looming questions is ‘who replaces Tom Burns?’ Per Oregon Live:

Will Higlin, the agency’s director of licensing, will assume the job’s duties until a permanent replacement is named. The agency also announced that Burns’ firing will not affect the timeline for drafting rules for a regulated recreational marijuana industry.

The OLCC says that this will not affect the timeline for drafting rules for Oregon’s legal marijuana industry, and I hope that’s true. I also hope that Will Higlin will take a fair and balanced approach to the rule making process. I know there are a lot of people right now in the industry that fear what could happen if Mr. Higlin is not knowledgeable about the subject, and/or if he does something to harm the process. There is still a lot of dust to settle in this scenario, and we have to let due process take its course. With that being said, if I was someone that has done something wrong during this process, I would come clean sooner than later, because it’s likely to come out in upcoming weeks as public e-mails get in the hands of members of the media.

Other questions that people involved with Oregon’s marijuana industry are asking are ‘what does this mean for the future of legal marijuana in Oregon?’ Also,  ’What does this mean for the future of the Oregon Grower’s PAC?’ The Oregon Grower’s PAC has been growing in size and influence recently, and I can’t imagine having a leader with an ethics complaint hanging over her head is a good thing if anything in the complaint proves to be true. Regardless of that the truth is, with Tom Burns, Amy Margolis, leaked documents, etc., one thing is for sure – this is a black eye on Oregon’s emerging marijuana industry and a black eye on Oregon in general. As a lifelong Oregonian it makes me sad, but I’m hopeful that Oregon’s marijuana industry and activist base can remain strong and move forward. I’ll make sure to update this article as more stuff gets sorted out.



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Johnny Green


  1. Peggy Lee 420 on

    Tom Burns was taking bribes. I know someone who was going to meet with him for that purpose on the day he was fired. Just another greedy official on the take.

  2. Peggy Lee 420 on

    Wow, are you an idiot. You need to get off this forum since you know absolutely nothing about medical marijuana.

  3. You are right if he was dumb enough to know his E-mail was not private this was all just an innocent mistake. As for the other I would be comfortable saying that much of the rush to “change” 91 was prepared prior to it’s even being on the ballot. Given the rush to collapse the OMMP to the OLCC I would say this is one of the things spoken of prior to it’s inception that has been kept quiet. Despite the wording of 91 it only takes a quick vote in Salem to change it all. Thank god we have an active and mobile contingent of supporters to counter this or it would already be gone. In the end how it got passed is irrelevant. How we deal with it now is all that matters

  4. You sound like a typical bigot who goes through life making harsh judgements of every one around, yet blind to your own failings.

  5. I think there is tremendous supposition in your statements. I do not know if Mr Burns is a “heavy user,” and unless you know him personally, I bet you don’t either. I rarely meet anyone over 30 who is a “heavy user” stumbling around “stoned” all the time. Most people have to make a living, they have to get up in the morning, they work hard, they have children. Maybe 5% of adult users have a problem with cannabis, and they have a host of other problems too. If it wasn’t cannabis, it would be opiates or alcohol, both of which are significantly more dangerous. Can you point to a study that shows long term memory impairment from chronic cannabis use? I know it is supposed to be a given, but you can’t show it as true. Cut out the cannabis for a few days and the cannabis fog clears up, unlike alcohol abuse which causes organic brain damage. I have seen studies that say that chronic use “changes” the brain, no one actually knows if the changes are deleterious or even have any effect at all.

  6. He is obviously a troll, whether paid or not his effect is one of disruption and the addition of garbage data. I have often pondered this “role” the internet has spawned and who chooses to fill it.

  7. Trevor Ballard on

    My father died of cancer he got from service in Vietnam. He was a medical patient.

    Fuck you, bongstar! You’re a fucking piece of shit!

  8. I have yet to apply for any license so to your first query. No
    As for the second, my insurance pays for my “drugs” and I produce my own herbal remedies. So to your somewhat accusatory query there, again , No.

  9. So you were denied a license despite being highly qualified?

    Specious claims…isnt this really just about your access to cheap drugs?

  10. There is no way around it…people cannot be “neutral”

    I’d rather have a prohibitionist than a hippy…these heavy users are super annoying to me (not myself included). I am sick and tired of meeting stoners that cannot properly estimate their limitations- like I have to do extra memory stuff at work because they can’t tell theirs is impaired..and just because I don’t show impairment while under a certain dose doesn’t entitle every other asshat to that same dose.

  11. No..he obviously cannot be trusted to keep his word..nothing to do with cannabis

  12. It’s becoming more obvious that the “Corporate Congress” is in session and ramping up influence all over the place. I find it interesting – now that “Corporations” have been legally declared “People” – they have been getting what amounts to more than one vote in every election. One could even call it “Voter Fraud” on the part of these so-called “Individuals”.

  13. ‘Unethical lead of internal document’ is just not the story at all to me. Read the documents. Wweek.com has them for download. They show the OLCC overstepping its bounds into “monitoring” the OMMP program. They were never given legal authority to do that and Measure 91 said that the act does not change OMMP. This was a power play. The document had been in circulation outside OLCC. They wanted to keep it secret because they knew the contents would not be acceptable to the M.91 voters/Canna community.

  14. I say … do you think the pharmaceutical company that he was a lobbyist for will hire him back … now that he’s gone to POT?! Perhaps they should have just kept him, he did not seem to have the best interest of the OMMP patients in mind.

  15. I don’t think it would be a good idea to appoint, for example, a vegetarian to head up fish and game, because there’s a personal and fundamental conflict of interest. Likewise, we would not want nor should have a prohibitionist heading up OLCC (whether anti-alcohol or anti-marijuana or both). Just saying…

  16. Given that Mr Burns was aware of the implication of releasing the info via his .gov address there is obviously another reason for this action. Perhaps it was to begin the investigation it will cause. The level of collusion and influence peddling over 91 has been nothing short of an “in your face” slap. Perhaps we will now get a glimpse of those involved?

  17. Now, louder then ever before, a clarion call to all for a stop to the madness. Time to turn up the heat and start asking the tough questions. Get in these legislators faces (respectfully) until they back off this knee-jerk legislation. We voted to leave OMMP alone but they’re willing the muck up the ONLY self-supporting program in the state. Pay them a visit, email your questions, acquire testimony from patients, growers, and doctors. Fight this, for once it’s gone, it ain’t a gonna come back.

  18. Any confidence I once had in appointed and elected officials in this state are “rattled” by this because the legislature is Still moving forward to Satisfy Special Interests to secure monopolization of our medical supply system for personal financial benefit….in the face of these alleged corruption charges. Why? All MedCanna bills must be tabled until Next session until we get to the bottom of this BS!
    As a Patient I feel like the legislature’s numerous bills on behalf of and regarding OLCC administration/control of a Health Care Program has laid us all bare as merely “Food” to satisfy Oregon’s Greedy Vulture Capitalists.
    I didn’t vote for and work to get More Democrats elected in this state to be stabbed in the back by them. If they’re going to continue working to satisfy the demands of “corrupted capitalists” while ignoring the lack of evidence and patient needs? Then we need to clean “our house” out and get Better politicians that Do consider constituents needs and directives their number one priority! Period. No HB 3400 (we Don’t Need to compromise-we Need to draw a line in the sand, stand Firm for Our Rights and say to the people WE elected: NO More)
    Every time we concede an inch of power to them by being nice/cooperative… they take a flipping Mile as we can see in the events unfolding Now, imo.
    No on SB 936!

  19. Keep a close eye on this. I will not be at all surprised to see hidden agendas emerge. Tom Burns appeared to be smart enough to know not to lie about something that there is an email trail to prove. Timing here is questionable.

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