The Oregonian’s Noelle Crombie recently obtained a report prepared by the Oregon State Police assessing the impacts of legal cannabis production and black market diversion. As Crobie notes in her piece, the OSP refused to release the report after multiple requests, but Ms. Crombie apparently would not be denied and she acquired a version of the report that may be refined.. Not surprisingly, the report doesn’t paint Oregon in the best light. But then again, when has law enforcement ever produced any type of documentation on cannabis that didn’t remind you of the kind of extreme finger-wagging you get from your crazy Aunt Myrtle about the “inappropriate” casual pants you wore to the family reunion?
To begin with, police are extremely worried that an underground market for cannabis exists. I call that a success. Not long ago, the police were only worried that cannabis itself exists. Finally, resources have been redirected to watch tracked market activity, rather than continuing the old game of Whack-a-Mole, where any presence of cannabis was tantamount to turning humans into evil, baby-eating zombies, and all persons in a half-mile radius were guilty of unforgivable crimes by association.
According to the report released last week, police are really worried about making sure cannabis is legal:
“The illicit exportation of cannabis must be stemmed as it undermines the spirit of the law and the integrity of the legal market. Crime, especially large scale underground trade, is difficult to measure and distorts economic data and, consequently, complicates governance over economic issues. Indeed, there are tangible negative socioeconomic effects from cannabis diversion, paramount among them is that as a form of illicit trade it steals economic power from the market, the government, and the citizens of Oregon, and furnishes it to criminals, thereby tarnishing state compliance efforts.”
To me, this sounds to me kind of like an old talking point for legalization generally.
Implementing sensible oversight and accountability of the market is exactly what needs to happen for legalization of both medical and adult-use cannabis to be effective. Of course, diversion to the criminal market is an issue of genuine concern. But the takeaway from this is not that nothing is working in Oregon, and the medical community is to blame, as Oregon State Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick(D) seems to suggest.
Legal marijuana brought in six times as much revenue as the state government initially predicted in 2016 and each dollar spent in the regulated system is money taken out of the criminal market. It’s important to remember that not long ago, all cannabis was sold in an illegal market, and it is foolish to believe those networks will instantaneously disappear.
Wrinkles clearly need to be ironed out in terms of effective policies for both the medical and recreational systems in Oregon. Let’s not panic and point fingers at patient providers, as seems to be the intimation of police and some lawmakers; instead, let’s learn as citizens what is happening and do what we can to find effective policy solutions that meet the needs of patients, growers, producers and citizens. Eliminating overburdensome regulations and fees is a much better policy than instituting regulatory and financial hurdles that create a new prohibition.
Thankfully, legalized cannabis is here to stay as Oregon voters strongly support legal marijuana. We simply need to build upon our success and implement a system that brings more and more people into a regulated system that works for patients, compassionate providers, industry participants, and all Oregonians.
Come learn the latest about next steps for Oregon’s cannabis communities and policies at the state’s most important cannabis event, the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference on April 28, 2017, at the Valley River Inn in Eugene. Get your tickets today!
This story has been updated to reflect that that Noelle Crombie obtained the OSP report after initial requests were denied.