Oregon lawmakers pass legislation to deal with excess cannabis inventory

Jul 2, 2019

Unfortunately, Oregon is in a cannabis-conundrum. They quite literally planted more marijuana than they could sell.

Following the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in 2015, Oregonian officials licensed roughly 2,100 growers. Now, those growers have produced more cannabis than the state could ever possibly hope to smoke.

Many of you may be thinking: challenge accepted, we’re moving to Oregon, but before you pack your bags and head on out to the Oregon Trail, you may want to read up on recently passed legislation that hopes to address the excess of cannabis in the Beaver State.

[In a federal first, the House has passed legislation to permanently protect state-sanctioned marijuana operations]

According to a 2019 Oregon Liquor Control Commission Report, there’s currently so much legal marijuana on the market that it would take more than 6.5 years for the state to actually sell it all, and that would be without ever growing another cannabis plant.

To address this surplus supply of marijuana, state legislators have approved two bills that would help cut down on cannabis cultivation, and would hopefully find new markets for the state’s marijuana inventory.

A marijuana grow facility houses rows of cannabis plants.

Why is this even an issue?

More marijuana than a state could use in 6.5 years sounds like a stoner’s paradise. Unfortunately, it’s a legalized market’s definition of purgatory.

With the exorbitant amounts of marijuana flooding the legal market, growers and retailers alike have no choice but to decrease the price of marijuana, creating something akin to a weed economic windfall.

[How plummeting medical marijuana cardholder rolls are transforming the cannabis industry landscape]

To help stem the surfeit of marijuana, the Oregon state legislature signed off on two bills: Senate Bill 218 and Senate Bill 582.

SB 218 grants the Oregon Liquor Control Board more authority in issuing new licenses to potential growers. The issuance of new licenses would be determined by the state’s supply of and demand for cannabis.

The bill that’s garnering the most attention, though, is SB 582. This bill would plant the legislative seeds for potential interstate marijuana commerce, allowing the governor of Oregon to establish agreements with other states for the importing and exporting of marijuana — once interstate commerce is legalized, that is.

Isn’t interstate marijuana commerce illegal?

Interstate signs show directional arrows pointing east and west.Currently, federal laws prohibit the transportation of marijuana across state borders. While it makes sense to send the Beaver State’s plethora of pot to other states that are dealing with such issues as drought or a newly formed legalized market, the federal government has planted itself in firm opposition of interstate cannabis commerce.

“You have people using water in the desert in Nevada to grow mediocre cannabis, or in Florida, where they have to dehumidify giant spaces, consuming twice the energy,” Director of the Craft Cannabis Alliance told The Los Angeles Times. “Oregon wouldn’t have an oversupply problem if we could access legal markets like these.”

Although the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal in 11 states, and for medical purposes in 33 states, federal prohibition laws prevent cannabis from crossing state lines. If federal law changes, Oregon could export its excess cannabis.

The federal effort for interstate marijuana exports

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, two legislators from the Beaver State, introduced congressional legislation that would allow states, including their home state, to export cannabis to other states so long as those states have legalized marijuana programs.

The State Cannabis Commerce Act would support the recently approved SB 582 in Oregon, allowing the governor to enter into agreements with other states for the import and export of cannabis products. 

While it is unclear if the bill will gain traction in the House, it is clear that interstate commerce would be the most efficient method of siphoning off some of Oregon’s supply of marijuana.

In a statement made to Congress, Wyden argued that Congress should protect the will of state-approved marijuana programs, such as Oregon, from federal interference. 

[Canada turns to the U.S. to solve cannabis shortage]

Justin Strekal, Political Director of NORML, supports the proposed federal legislation, arguing that the United States often enjoys the fruits of other states’ agricultural labors. Cannabis should be treated just like any other crop, so long as it’s legalized in that state.

“Just as Americans around the country enjoy Kentucky bourbon, so should they be allowed to enjoy Oregon cannabis,” Strekal said.

Perhaps if the federal legislation gains some traction, folks as far away as Maine could enjoy some Oregon-grown cannabis.

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