In just a few years after legalizing recreational marijuana, licensed cannabis processors in Oregon have started selling recreational cannabis—all but three that are still committed to producing strictly medical marijuana.
Since Oregon legalized recreational marijuana, the overwhelming majority of cannabis processors in that state have shifted their focus mostly towards producing and selling recreational products.
The medical marijuana industry in Oregon was at its peak in 2016, when the state had around 420 dispensaries and when medical cardholders had an almost unlimited access.
As of then, many of the dispensaries have since turned towards the recreational market, and now only 8 dispensaries are offering strictly medical marijuana products for the whole state.
Oregon legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2014, which is also the start of this big shift towards the recreational market.
Processors suddenly saw the enormous potential that this new market had to offer, and just about everyone jumped on the occasion to sell to consumers instead of patients.
Why? Well, the reason behind this is, just like most other things, money. Big, big money.
In 2015, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) took control over the recreational industry and the state government passed 9 bills between 2016. and 2018. which expanded consumer access to marijuana, but also changed regulatory procedures on growing, processing and packaging.
This meant that processors that wanted to continue offering medical products had to abide by these new laws.
It turned out that those that were in the medical market just for the money switched to the recreational side of the market at the first chance they had.
An administrator for the Center for Health Protection at the Oregon Health Authority, André Ourso, said that this presents a potential problem for those that live in areas that opted-into a recreational-only model.
“For those patients that would need their medicine in an area that’s opted out of recreational sales, and they don’t have a grower or they’re not growing on their own, it does present a real access issue for those individuals.”
The Oregon Health Authority published a report in which they outlined the problems which their medical marijuana program faces.
The biggest issues found were “insufficient and inaccurate reporting and tracking,” “inspections that did not keep pace with applications”, and “insufficient funding and staffing”.
The OLCC has paused on accepting new applications for becoming a licensed processor until further notice, as it has already issued nearly 1,900 licenses in just under 5 years.
Aside from this, once recreational use got legalized, the OLCC introduced a limit on the amount of cannabinoids that are allowed in certain products.
For example, edibles once didn’t have a limit, and now they are limited to only 100 mg of THC per snack.
Medical growers were also capped on the number of plants they can grow, as a precaution measure against fighting the black market.
“All the people that we made these laws for – the ones who are desperately ill – are being screwed right now and are directed to the black market,” said Karla Kay, COO at PharmEx, one of 3 remaining medical processors.
In 2017 the Oregon Health Authority’s reported that just 58 of over 20,000 medical growers were inspected last year.
Last year was also huge in the means of production, as the growers in Oregon produced well over 3 times more than they actually consume on a yearly basis.
This flood of legal marijuana forced the state legislators to introduce a new bill, senate bill 1544, which funnels parts of the state’s marijuana taxes into the Criminal Justice Commission tasked of going after the black market.
By doing this, the OLCC basically enforced their seed-to-sale system with this move, as more than 2000 Oregonian growers will now be forced to use this system to track sales.