Oregon’s status as a national source of black market cannabis wasn’t exactly a secret even before its state-mandated “track and trace” system revealed a marijuana surplus of three times what the state’s consumers could smoke.
Where does the excess go? Somewhere else, like out of state, maybe.
Whether this development was good or bad depended on where you stood. But unless you were a consumer happy with cheap prices and nothing else, it was mostly a problem. The state’s recreational and medical marijuana growers’ success in flooding the market crashed prices for consumers, put producers out of business and drew the attention of law enforcement. Last year, the state’s U.S. attorney even pledged to crack down on “overproduction.”
That pledge has yet to result in concrete action — cementing former US Attorney General Jeff Session’s legacy as one of mostly empty threats. But in the meantime, it’s begged a few questions, the same ones growers in California and elsewhere have grappled with for years: When will there be a legal nationwide market for marijuana? When will interstate cannabis commerce become a thing?
What about in 2021? That’s when Oregon cannabis producers would be able to legally export to other states if a proposed bill expected to be considered in the Oregon state house later this year becomes law. According to the Statesman Journal, state Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) is working with cannabis industry advocates on a bill that would allow state growers to ship cannabis to other states, providing that state had a legal framework in place and the willingness to accept the Oregon-grown weed.
“There are plenty of markets that would be thrilled to have world-class cannabis,” said Adam Smith, founder and director of the Oregon-based Craft Cannabis Alliance, in an interview with the paper. “But prohibition keeps us from sending it into those markets.”
There’s the rub. The import-export game is not the future of cannabis, it is the present, as Canada’s licensed companies are proving with their worldwide distribution. But it will remain the distant future in the United States so long as federal prohibition is in effect. If the Justice Department couldn’t quite bring itself to kill off the recreational marijuana markets in places like Colorado and Washington, surely it might balk at allowing truckloads of cannabis to cross state lines?
Full Speed Ahead
2021 is two years into the future — a future when a Congress controlled by Democrats, bereft of the key committee chairs that made a career of blocking marijuana reform, just might pass meaningful marijuana reform. A state like Oregon declaring its intent to ship weed to states where it is needed and not a burden might put just enough pressure on Congress to do something.
There is also an air of a preemptive strike. Oregon, Prozanski told the newspaper, is known throughout the country as a producer of things like fine pinot noir wines and palate-busting IPAs sold worldwide. Should Congress decide to change federal marijuana policy, there is a desire to be ready to add cannabis to that list as soon as possible.
There are numerous hurdles, both legal and logistical, as well as whatever wrinkles the market would present. But the openness with which state lawmakers are entertaining the idea reveals what should be obvious and undeniable: A nationwide marijuana market is coming to the US, possibly sooner rather than later. Whether it will come soon enough to rescue producers suffering from low prices is another matter entirely.
TELL US, do you think the federal government will allow Oregon to export cannabis nationwide?