I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Oregon’s MMJ program feels like Seattle five years ago (and like Los Angeles today), when there was little to no marijuana regulation, zero state oversight, and a lot of recreational use from people feigning to be legitimate patients. That feeling was just confirmed by a 64-page report produced by the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA).
Despite Oregon’s best efforts to revise its dispensary laws (and to overhaul its entire MMJ statute and program), the black market is alive and well in the Beaver State. What does this actually mean for the State? It means that Oregon desperately needs to get its act together on legalizing and regulating marijuana. Otherwise, the Feds will very likely get active, going after illegitimate and legitimate actors alike.
According to the Oregon Statesman Journal, the HIDTA report highlights three main problems with Oregon’s current MMJ market:
The large number of cardholders; difficulties in investigating those card holders and their growers; and the attraction of selling surplus cannabis on the black market.
What was once a modest medical marijuana program adopted in 1998, has now exploded in Oregon into a gray-to-black-market fueled extravaganza where “medicine” is sold freely to legit patients, recreational users, and black market peddlers alike. Oregon’s lack of meaningful regulation or a mandated transparent chain of distribution has created a cannabis regime with a near total lack of accountability for industry participants. In light of the most recent Cole memo, it does not pay to be a state with an unregulated marijuana regime (just look at California, whose cannabis industry continues to spiral downward due to its own lack of a regulated regime).
But there is real hope on Oregon’s horizon in the form of a people’s initiative to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use by essentially treating it like alcohol. This initiative is virtually certain to be on the ballot this November and indications are that it will pass. As of right now, it appears that Oregon’s recreational regime will coexist alongside Oregon’s existing medical program, but as Washington State teeters on the near repeal of its own relatively long-standing medical marijuana program, it is quite possible that Oregon’s recreational laws will eventually supplant its medical laws as well, especially given the Oregon HIDTA report.
One thing is certain, if Oregon wants to keep the Feds off its back while also protecting its patients, it must act soon to rectify its self-created gray market for MMJ.