Oregon's legal cannabis market is producing bumper harvests and robust tax revenues. But none of that money is going to regulate the weed industry.
The results of those two realities were on display last week.
An audit showed lawmakers have underfunded regulation. Meanwhile, a new analysis confirmed that the massive oversupply first reported by WW ("Too Much Weed," April 18, 2018) will continue unabated. And a recent drug bust in Idaho showed the leakiness of Oregon's cannabis market.
In the mind of one of the state's leading drug policy veterans, the current system for regulating cannabis was almost designed to fail.
"It's like we're driving this shiny new car full speed down the road, hoping it doesn't crash," says Rob Bovett, former Lincoln County district attorney and now legal counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties. "We haven't checked the oil or the tires. It's just kind of irresponsible."
Bovett says political choices made by the framers of Measure 91, which legalized recreational weed in 2014, threaten to undermine the integrity of the system.
Specifically, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which is charged with licensing and regulating the industry from seed to sale, can only afford regular inspections of a small fraction of its nearly 2,100 license holders.
Oregon's decision—different from other states—to allow an unlimited number of growers, processors and retailers means they've engaged in unfettered competition, driving cannabis supply through the roof and prices through the floor—down more than 50 percent since late 2016.