In Oregon, Is Pot Overproduction a 'Formidable' Problem?

By Keri Blakinger 02/07/18

The absence of a state-mandated production cap has generated a massive market putting out three times what users can legally consume.

cannabis bud

Oregon is producing three times as much pot as it can legally consume, a “formidable” problem requiring immediate action, according to the state’s top federal prosecutor.

U.S. Attorney Billy Williams addressed police and pot industry bigs last week at a marijuana summit in the wake of shifting federal guidance on industry. Early this year, notoriously anti-pot Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the so-called Cole Memo, an Obama-era directive that offered federal prosecutors guidance on how to enforce drug laws in states that had legalized.

That move didn’t play well in the Beaver State, where Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum called it “overreach” and highlighted the $60 million in state taxes the industry generated.

But Williams sought to ease pot producers’ fears of federal prosecution, even while highlighting the problems caused by such rampant over-growing.

“Here’s what I know in terms of the landscape here in Oregon, and that is, we have an identifiable and formidable marijuana overproduction and diversion problem,” he said at Friday’s meeting, according to the Associated Press. “And make no mistake about it, we’re going to do something about it.”

Previously, Williams has pointed to the more than 2,600 pounds of pot seized from outbound packages in Oregon as support for his claims about the connection between black markets and legal overproduction.

Industry advocates have pushed back against the belief that an increase in legal production could generate a spike in black market sales. But Oregon State University professor Seth Crawford said the absence of a state-mandated production cap has generated a massive market putting out three times what users can legally consume, creating a “system designed for failure” and a black market influx.

“You created this huge industry that has nowhere to put its product,” Crawford told the AP.

“If you were an investor and you had just dropped $4 million into a grow and you had thousands of pounds of flower that was ready to go but you had nowhere to sell it... if you want any of your money back, the only thing you can do is sell it on the black market,” he said.

Oregon legalized cannabis for adult use in 2014 and medical marijuana back in 1998. There are now roughly 900 licensed recreational pot growers and more than 25,000 medical producers in the state.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.