Oregon’s growing marijuana problem

Oregon’s marijuana law has created questions that have landed in the laps of the Legislature and the courts, which will be sorting through them until further notice.

Published on August 10, 2017 8:24AM

Last changed on August 10, 2017 3:29PM

Marijuana plants grow in a high tunnel at a farm near McMinnville, Ore. Since Oregon voters legalized the psychoactive crop in 2013, 685 marijuana producers have been licensed to grow the crop and more than 800 have applications pending.

Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press

Marijuana plants grow in a high tunnel at a farm near McMinnville, Ore. Since Oregon voters legalized the psychoactive crop in 2013, 685 marijuana producers have been licensed to grow the crop and more than 800 have applications pending.


When Oregon voters approved an initiative to make marijuana legal under state law — but not federal law — they should have expected it to create as many questions as it answered.

Such as:

• The state may be able to regulate growers and sellers under the registration system, but how does it regulate the black market, which feeds off legal marijuana?

• How does the state prevent barely regulated medical marijuana growers from selling their “extra” production on the black market?

• How does the state reconcile federal law, which specifies that marijuana is illegal, with the state law?

• Is marijuana production included in the state’s Right to Farm law?

• Where do water rights and the laws relating to water use start and stop for marijuana growers?

For farmers, the last two questions are especially pertinent. Our guess is not many voters considered the right to farm and water use when casting their ballot for the ability to smoke pot.

Now those and other questions have landed in the laps of the Legislature and the courts, which will be sorting through them until further notice.

It’s a great time to be a lawyer in Oregon.

We were never fond of an initiative that would partially legalize recreational marijuana and partially regulate medical marijuana.

The loopholes in that new law are big enough to drive a 1964 Volkswagen mini-bus painted with day-glow flowers through.

In the meantime, 2,788 growers, processors and sellers are taking a chance on recreational marijuana as a crop in Oregon.

Multnomah County, which includes Portland, has 496 applications pending as of July 27. Interestingly, Jackson and Josephine counties, with a combined population that’s only 37 percent the size of Multnomah’s, have 649 applications pending. One wonders whether that marijuana production is destined solely for the Oregon market.

If you consider only producers, 685 are now licensed by the state and more than 800 have applications pending.

At $800 to $1,200 a pound on the market, marijuana will continue to attract a lot of interest, among both legitimate operators and others who seek to take advantage of the loopholes in Oregon’s poorly written law.

If it isn’t already, Oregon will soon be awash in marijuana. The state already grows about five times as much marijuana as can realistically be smoked here, according to Rep. Carl Wilson, a Grants Pass Republican who is vice chairman of the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation.

That leaves many Oregonians scratching their heads about the problem they created.

The failure to properly regulate marijuana is further proof that the initiative process in Oregon is wide open to interesting concepts that lack the full vetting the legislative process provides.

The result is laws that fail the public.



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