Oregon Pot Czar Tom Burns Fired Three Months into Job

Oregon Liquor Control Commission executive director Steven Marks today fired the agency's recreational marijuana director, Tom Burns.

Burns, who oversaw the creation of the state's medical marijuana program, was hired by the OLCC in December as the state's recreational pot czar.

The OLCC is tasked with setting the rules for recreational weed growers and stores. Burns' medical-weed work made him one of the few high-ranking OLCC officials with any experience regulating pot.

His ouster was sudden: Burns was scheduled to update the OLCC commissioners on the latest updates in the weed rule-making process tomorrow morning.

OLCC officials said today Burns' firing would not change the timeline for beginning the licensing process for legal-weed stores by January 2016.

But sources tell WW the sudden decision is an upheaval for the Oregon Legislature as it tries to implement Measure 91.

"I'm dismayed to hear that Tom will no longer be serving in that role," says Rep. Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego), who co-chairs the joint House-Senate committee on marijuana. "I've come to rely on his expertise and good judgment as we work to find our way forward. It's a real loss for the committee and a real loss for people who care about Measure 91.

"That said," Lininger added, "I look forward to working with his successor."

Marks' office declined to state why he fired Burns. 

But several sources tell WW that Burns clashed with Rob Patridge, the Klamath County district attorney who serves as chairman of the OLCC.

OLCC spokesman Tom Towslee says that's not the case.

"What happened is not the result of conflict between Tom Burns and Chair Patridge," Towslee says. "There is no conflict."

Before going to work for the state of Oregon, Burns previously served as a top administrator in the California state Senate and was a lobbyist for GlaxoSmithKline, a large pharmaceutical company.

Here is the statement issued this afternoon by Towslee: