f you ask someone in Oregon what they think about California, a common answer is, "I want them to stop moving here, driving up real estate prices and clogging up my commute." Unless they are from California, in which case the response involves, "how much it rains up here, unlike California."
Ask someone what they think about California cannabis and you may get a blank look. Oregon is pretty much drowning in top shelf flower, to the extent that some estimates believe that we are exporting (to other states) three to five times more than we consume—so we don't really think much about what's going on down south.
But it may behoove Oregon to start looking at what California has planned for their recreational cannabis program rollout under Prop. 64. Oregon has had an Adult Use Cannabis Program since July 1, 2015. On Jan. 1, 2018, California begins theirs.
California already has a booming medical marijuana use program, which was established in 1996 and is the oldest medical program in the country. It came to be in large part as a response to the AIDS crisis, when cannabis was one of the few products, pharmaceutical or non, to offer relief to those suffering the effects of AIDS. Prior to that, the general consensus is that the best weed in North America came from the famed Emerald Triangle in Northern California, comprised of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties. (Cue uproar from Oregon cannabis growers disputing that general consensus.)Y
et that booming medical marijuana program is pretty much a sonic boom. Marijuana Business Daily reported a year ago that estimated California had 2,756 dispensaries with a combined revenue of $844.4 million between April 2015 and March 2016. More recently, Arcview Group issued a report stating that "California accounted for 27 percent of the 2016 legal cannabis market in North America," with Colorado accounting for 20 percent and Washington 11 percent. (Data for Oregon was not provided.)
The marketplace is certainly larger. As of 2017, Oregon has a population of 4.046 million people, and a Gross Domestic Product of $207 billion dollars, which places it as the 24th largest state economy in the U.S. As of 2016, California has a population of 39.5 million, and a GDP of $2.46 trillion, making its economy is the 6th largest economy in the world. So more people with more money equals more cannabis sales.
But is it safe? The California Weed Blog reports that in February, an NBC TV affiliate in Southern California did an investigation, purchasing 44 flower and vape products from 15 dispensaries in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. They then had Steep Hill labs test for 16 pesticides. The results concluded: "Steep Hill Labs found 41 out of 44 samples, 93 percent, tested positive for pesticides, at levels high enough that those products would've been banned for sale in some other states that currently regulate the use of pesticides in marijuana products." One vape cartridge company had 355 times the amount of Myclobutanil, a fungicide, that would be allowed in some other states with cannabis testing and pesticide limits.T
his isn't a wholesale indictment of the cannabis produced in California by any means, as I have tried some next level organic offerings that were stunning in taste, appearance and effect. There are many excellent cannabis companies doing some extraordinary work in the Golden State. I've also been privy to some yet unreleased cannabis products that were designed in California, and the innovation they demonstrated was quite impressive. Some great things are in the pipeline.
I will be in both Northern and Southern California during the week this column runs. I'm scheduled to check out some cannabis events and talk with industry players about what they see for 2018. I may even get to check out a cannabis speakeasy, where, much to the shock of Oregon lawmakers, people are gathering in a structure with walls and roof and consuming cannabis, and there seems to be no horrendous result for the attendees or the surrounding community.
Stay tuned as I journey south.