RIP to the OMMP: The Death of Medical Cannabis in Oregon

New laws for medical marijuana in Oregon are shutting out small farmers.


Glory Daze Botanicals is the epitome of a family farm. At their headquarters deep in the mountains of Southern Oregon, goats and horses keep fields mowed, chickens happily turn food scraps into compost, and well-kept orchards and garden plots provide fruits and vegetables year-round. But for well over a decade, small batch medicinal cannabis has been their focus.

GDB unofficially began in 2005, when the crew of five or so family members and friends began growing for themselves and a few needing patients under Oregon’s long established Medical Marijuana Program.

When voters passed Initiative 28 in 2008 it allowed them to sell any of their surplus medicine to medical dispensaries around the state. The upstart remained small and true to their roots, choosing quality over quantity. They began investing time and money into a light supplemented and climate controlled greenhouse for year-round production.

Jeramiah Johnson, co-owner of GDB, and his now deceased father Ralph, built the structure themselves, and for the first time in many years, the lights are off, doors are closed and beds lay fallow.

“We just have nowhere to sell our product,” admits co-owner Jeramiah Johnson.  “The state is trying as hard as they can to squeeze us out.”

Glory Daze is among thousands of medical marijuana producers in the state hit by a series of quick legislative changes to the program. While the OMMP still exists, Johnson believes the state is forcing out the small time farmers and bending to the beckoning of big business.

Oregon legalized adult use of cannabis in 2015 and medical marijuana dispensaries were the first to offer product to the public. In 2017 the state required all recreational marijuana sales go through Oregon Liquor Control Commission licensed dispensaries, a costly and time consuming process involving thousands, often hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire a license. Medical marijuana dispensaries were still allowed to buy and sell cannabis exclusively from and to medical patients.

Things changed again in the second quarter of 2017, when the state began allowing OLCC licensed dispensaries to sell product to medical patients, while not allowing medical marijuana growers to sell their product to recreational dispensaries. According to Johnson, this was the first nail in the coffin.

“There were hundreds of medical dispensaries across the state last year, now we are down to 11.  We’ve visited every single one of them, and have product in most, but they are all saying the same thing, we just cannot compete with recreational dispensaries.”

Then on Oct. 12, GDB received a letter in the mail that would have their crew and growers across the state up in arms. In a closed-door session, Oregon legislature passed SB-1057. The new bill made drastic changes to the system. Patients are now effectively blocked from growing more than 12 plants at their place of residence, no matter the land use zoning. Rural residential properties now fall under the same 12 plant maximum restriction.

“We just spend $1,400 on renewing our patients cards, and it turned out to be a waste. We can no long grow for my mom or my sister because they live at the same address as our grow site.”

Though the greenhouse is empty, Johnson and GDB have not admitted defeat. They applied and received approval for an OLCC producers license, but had planned on raising the capital to finish costly infrastructure improvements to their farm before going full blown recreational. From security systems, construction projects, permitting, licensing, and employee wages Johnson estimates a bare minimum of a $250,000 investment to enter the rec industry, even when they already own the property.

“We really wanted to do this all on our own, now we have to look for outside funding to get things up and running,” Johnson said. “We could just continue to produce and look for a place on the black market for our product, but we are doing everything by the books.”

For Emily Vandruff, one of a small handful of GDB’s employees, shutting down was the last thing she expected.

“We’ve done everything we can to keep going, produced a quality product we are proud of, followed testing and tracking requirements, visited every possible dispensary in the state, but we just can’t afford to keep going,” Vandruff said. “I’ve been pushed out of the best job I’ve ever had.”

The list of new rules changes almost monthly, but for now the state has begun grow site inspections and requires all growers with more than 12 plants to enter the METRC cannabis tracking system, a move government officials believe will help slow illegal out-of-state cannabis sales. Growers on the other hand feel forced in the opposite direction.

“If you take away the legal outlet for farmers, they will be forced to find somewhere else to unload their product,” Johnson said.

At GDB, the crew is hopeful despite the shut down.

“We will be back up and running soon, but I just wonder how many others won’t be so lucky,” Johnson said. “The OMMP allowed us to produce low-cost high-quality medicine for patients across the state. I just can’t shake the feeling that those very same patients are going to bare the brunt of these new laws.”

TELL US, are the new medical marijuana laws in Oregon affecting your cannabis supply or your business?

Emery Garcia is a freelance journalist and cannabis cultivator based in Southern Oregon. After years of working as "trimmigrant" and globe trotting freelance travel writer, he has now embedded himself full-time into the Oregon Cannabis Industry. Follow him on instagram, @egars_world.

14 Comments

  1. Do

    November 30, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    It’s all bullshit alternative solutions owner I feel everything ur say I support you all . I own one of the 11 I was the 4 lic in the state and treated like shit for what stepping up for what I brlive in with all my

  2. Kevin Cutter

    November 29, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Uplifted and OG Collective in Salem oregon built themselves on black market and break all kinds of laws while pretending to follow rules… They should be investigsted.

  3. Heather

    November 28, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    As a cannabis nurse in Oregon I am having a harder time finding product that I can rely on as age for my patients. What a tragedy. Supporting small, local family farms is the way to support Oregonians-both patients and farmers. I am so disappointed in our state and the decisions made here. We should be the leaders of high quality medicine in our country, as we were in the past. Now we have been sold to big business.

    • Paul

      November 30, 2017 at 8:56 am

      Heather,

      I totally agree there should be a medical program, like no tax and Oregon should have a similar license and security procedures for medical. I use to be a medical Farmer, but now I’m a small license farm that has gone thru all the hard work and spend a lot of money to be in compliance with olcc and state laws. Medical grows are loosely run and monitored. Medical market is a joke, because the products are the same as when they were medical to recreational. Maybe the potency on edidles as changed a little. I recommend just eating more. The medical market is a loop hole into black markets and causes Farmers like me to get frustrated that medical gets some privilege. Cannabis is Cannabis, I recommend finding a better dispensary to go to if you’re not finding what you like. There’s 400+ in 15 mile radius in Portland and surrending cities.

  4. Alison

    November 28, 2017 at 7:22 am

    This is EXACTLY our situation! Exactly. We were forced to comply with OLCC or quit. We also have family members we grow for that live on the farm the we can’t grow for because there are too many plants. The cost of infrastructure has left us staggered and half way completed because we are out of cash. Trying to be compliant. Stuck in the middle right now because we’ve spent almost $60,000 and need another $20,000 before we are done. And we own our property!!! Can go forward, can’t go back, can’t get a loan because we grown “plutonium” don’t ya know. It sucks. And ultimately my patients are without medicine.

  5. Tina Marie

    November 28, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Change is here! So my husband and me made the decision for me to not renew with OMMP and save the money instead. He’s already a patient himself and retired. We are outdoor growers and feel 12 plants produce enough medicine for us both and don’t want to deal with more paper work or documentation for their tracking reasons or waste. So most likely we won’t grow 12 plants next year but probably half! You can’t give it away there’s so much!!! We are excepting change we just hope they don’t take our grower rights!!!

  6. Cappy Cross

    November 27, 2017 at 10:01 am

    sadly, like most other places, your legislators have been bought and paid for by big corporate business. They will continue to enact laws that push small people out of business and give the Lion’s Share to the big corporates. The sad thing is, the big corporates will care less about quality and more about profits and the industry will go downhill as a result. Further evidence that in my never to be humble opinion, the human species in its entirety is circling the drain, thanks to greed and avarice and big business.

  7. Lisa CATRANIDES

    November 27, 2017 at 9:43 am

    My medical growers can no longer grow for me. I I am a medical marijuana patient because I need help and assistance, and growing my own marijuana is not possible. These new laws are oppressing the truly sick and needy people who will now have to pay high market prices for commercial cannabis that may not even meet our needs. When medical marijuana patients had attentive and astute Growers, we were able to have the perfect medicine cultivated for our needs. Now we are thrown aside like trash in the gutter to randomly find whatever we can afford, if we can afford it, and if the medicine we need is even available any longer. Seems like our governor should step in, but I doubt that will happen.
    Trump-America has come to Oregon through our state legislature, despite the fact that we voted for a certain set of regulations – they not followed, and were randomly and secretly changed, which means our votes and our health are now meaningless to the State which craves only to profit from our medical needs regardless of our increased suffering. Welcome to Trumporegon.

  8. Roxanne Falkenstein

    November 27, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Well, I am losing my grower due to limits on R5 properties and now will be at the mercy of commercial prices.

  9. Rob

    November 27, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Why didn’t they often to the metric system they could have still continue to grow for all of their patients and sell 20 lbs per year of their product they just want to be able to sell more it’s all agreed Factor you make him sound Innocent but they’re really just greedy people that want to grow more pot than what they’re legally spot and not pay their taxes rant over

  10. Ed Medina

    November 26, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Several issues here. Medical dispensaries were not legal until 2014, after the legislature passed a bill allowing them. I still run a medical only dispensary in klamath falls, an opt out county. We still supply products to patients, and are able to survive as long as we have vendors we can purchase from. There are only 3 medical processors still selling products. 2 of them are waiting to go rec, so when they do, we are down to 1 processor. During harvest season, processed products keep us going, as most have their own flower. So the problems the state has created are much larger than just shutting down the growers. They have cut the supply lines to even us, who have no option to go rec. Essentially putting us out of business soon. We cannot stay open with nothing on the shelves to sell. Anyone in my position should be talking to a lawyer. The state cannot legislate us out of business. Which is exactly what they are doing.

  11. Karen Averill

    November 26, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Yes! Our story is identical. After providing medicine to our patients for 18+ years at no charge and fighting for this plant for 30+ years we are now being forced to close our gates … a tragedy beyond words. Small farms provided top shelf, organic medicine filled with love of the plant yet now large Wreckreational grows pass through mold, mildew and product that has no soul are the norm.

  12. Jared

    November 26, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Mu name is Jared Panks and I’m a patient and grower for a handful of patients. What sets us apart is that we grow for the deaf community, employ deaf people and teach them how to grow organic medicine. I also sit on the cannabis advisory panel in Josephine county.

    This whole thing feels like the ommp was set up to fail. The leaders of OHA must have their pockets lined because they don’t do anything to help the patients or the growers. Oregonians have been sold out and written off so that big cooperations can walk in and rape our land and pillage our homes and families. I’m astonished that Oregon didn’t hold true to its roots. I never thought that Oregon would sell it Oregonians but apparently money holds more sway than dying and suffering citizens. What a shame!

  13. Bob King

    November 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    How about a discussion on the 5% loss allowed on rec farms, which I know without naming farms this loss goes to the black market. This in its self has made medical a target, hence the law changes! If OLLC really address this issues they might have not attacked medical!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *