In 2014 Oregon made history with three other states by legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use. Alaska did so the same year as Colorado and Washington doing so in 2012. The prohibition had finally begun to let up in many areas of the country. Medical marijuana was on the rise with many states legalizing medical use or decriminalizing pot altogether. The smoking of pot had gone from a felony charge to an acceptable form of relaxation and medication practically overnight.
Smoking pot was nothing new in Oregon. In fact, it was long known to be a place that saw a substantial black market with illegal grows littering the southern region near California’s border. This region even earned the nickname as the “Emerald Region” due to its high number of growing operations. When marijuana for recreational use became legal then began the arduous task of taking an illegal, unregulated, underground market and bringing it above ground where it was legal and regulated. In the early day’s licenses were easy to acquire as the state wanted to encourage compliance and discourage the growth of weed to ship out of state or for sale on the black market. This made it relatively easy for people who had started with illegal grow operations to legitimize themselves and become legal businessmen and businesswomen.
Oregon’s Weed Surplus
Because of the ease of getting into the marijuana industry, it meant that a ton of growers were starting up operations or beefing up current ones by a measurable factor. It seems that the desire to make it easy to transition to a legal system. Unfortunately, that system was designed to limit weed finding its way out of state. That made it destined to backfire. Six years later and Oregon has too much weed. There are over a million pounds of a surplus of weed which has driven the prices down considerably. This has impacted some farmer’s livelihoods and has even put some out of work and into bankruptcy. It has gone so far that some have even gotten out of the marijuana business altogether and switched over to hemp production in an effort to save their businesses. This surplus is showing that too many growers producing more than can be consumed by Oregon alone is a recipe for failure. Additionally, it may lead to growers looking to sell their pot illegally on the black market and ship it out of state. This could damage the reputation of the weed industry and of Oregon as a whole.
Finding a Solution
Oregon from the beginning has tried to limit the weed that is grown in-state from leaving the state and making its way into the black market. This is an effort to help keep the industry from appearing hurtful to the community. However, if the markets could be legally opened up in other states and they could legally transport it across state lines they wouldn’t be in such a pinch. This has led to the formation of a group called the Craft Cannabis Alliance. The Craft Cannabis Alliance wants to see laws and policies changed to make it easier for growers in Oregon to break into markets in other states by allowing the transportation of marijuana across state lines. It appears that some governors and politicians in Washington DC have become receptive to this idea but only time will tell. Another way that Oregon is trying to combat a surplus is by limiting the number of permits that it gives to grow operations or by limiting the size of the operations. This will allow for a more competitive market for the relatively small industry that is bound by state boundaries.
What Can Other States Learn?
By looking at the example of Oregon other states can use this to improve their own marijuana infrastructure. The easiest way is to limit the amount of pot grown in the state by only giving out as many permits as it is needed. Another way is to have growers prove that a significant portion of their products have been sold and are not sitting there and ending up in compost heaps. Being one of the first four states to legalize pot, Oregon has a lot of stories to tell and lessons to share. It very clearly shows that weed use is a fantastic way to stimulate the economy and is a safer alternative to alcohol and prescription pills. However, it also shows that regulatory efforts should be put into place to allow the industry to thrive properly. If not, then many people’s livelihoods could be at stake and the weed could find its way into the illegal black market which could negatively affect the movement altogether.