An overgrowth of weed has lawmakers and spectators alike wondering: how is Oregon handling its cannabis surplus? The state is currently producing more weed than the legal market can handle. And the surplus in cannabis production has become a sticky issue with lawmakers, law enforcement, and cannabis industry players. Here’s how Oregon is handling it.
A Spike In Cannabis Production
Billy J. Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the state of Oregon, published an opinion article last month in The Oregonian. In it, he described the state’s cannabis surplus.
Williams argued that Oregon’s legal weed industry has sparked more marijuana-growing activity than the state can handle. As a result, he said, much of the cannabis produced in Oregon is finding its way onto the black market.
“In 2017 alone, postal agents in Oregon seized 2,644 pounds of marijuana in outbound parcels and over $1.2 million in cash,” he wrote. “Overproduction creates a powerful profit incentive, driving product from both state-licensed and unlicensed marijuana producers into black and gray markets across the country.”
He concluded: “This lucrative supply attracts cartels and other criminal networks into Oregon and in turn brings money laundering, violence, and environmental degradation.”
The massive amount of cannabis being grown in Oregon most likely stems from a couple key factors.
For starters, Oregon has long been a prime location for growing cannabis. Even before weed became legal, growers found near-perfect environmental and climatic conditions for cannabis cultivation.
More recently, the legal industry has likely sparked an uptick in the volume of weed being grown in the state. In particular, Oregon has not set a limit on how many growers can become licensed to produce cannabis.
According to The Chicago Tribune, there are currently 900 licensed recreational growers in Oregon and more than 1,100 waiting approval. There are also more than 25,000 licensed medical marijuana growers.
Given all this activity, it may not be surprising that the state now has more weed than the legal industry can handle.
Final Hit: How Is Oregon Handling Its Cannabis Surplus?
Oregon’s cannabis surplus could create tensions with the federal government. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked an Obama-era policy that directed federal agents to take a “hands-off” approach when dealing with weed-legal states.
The move could pave the way for a federal crackdown. And if such a crackdown materializes, any cannabis perceived to be fueling the black market would be a likely target.
To address this type of tension, Williams is organizing a state-wide summit to discuss how to handle the situation. He said he would invite a wide range of people and organizations to attend.
This includes federal, state, local, and tribal leaders, lawmakers, and law enforcement, public health groups, and various community organizations.
“This summit and the state’s response will inform our federal enforcement strategy,” Williams wrote. “How we move forward will depend in large measure on how the state responds to the gaps we have identified.”
Medical marijuana became legal in Oregon in 1998. Then, in 2014, voters approved the legalization of recreational cannabis. Since then, the state’s legal THC market has exploded.
Now, with a cannabis surplus creating the possibility for increased tension with federal law enforcement, the state may have to adjust key aspects of its legal weed programs.