It's no secret that Oregon produces good weed—and a lot of it. Along with other bastions of marijuana, such as Humboldt County, Calif., Oregonians have a very green thumb that's put the state near the top of the heap when it comes to production of the stuff. Oregon's thumb is so green, in fact, that it's also not a secret that the state is producing way more marijuana than it can consume itself. Legal growers in Oregon are producing about 2 million pounds of cannabis per year, while demand for it in the state is between 186,100 and 372,600 pounds, according to Cannabis Business News.
Oversupply has become such an issue that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission halted issuing new licenses last summer. Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Billy J. Williams, has set sights on cracking down on interstate drug trafficking, because, as he wrote in August, "overproduction is rampant."
But were we living in a scenario in which marijuana was no longer a Schedule 1 drug, classified by the federal government as having "no currently accepted medical use" and "a high potential for abuse"—the same classification given to drugs such as heroin and ecstasy—we might not use the word "overproduction" at all. Plenty of other states grow an abundance of certain crops because of the state's climate, geography or residents' interest, and we don't look at those as "overproduction." Florida produces a lot of oranges and sells them to other states. If Florida was only allowed to sell oranges to Floridians, we might also call that overproduction. Instead, we call it exportation.
Which brings us to a bill under consideration in the Oregon legislature, and why it may be a very good idea to see it pass sooner rather than later. Senate Bill 582, sponsored by Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) and Rep. Ken Helm (D-Beaverton), would authorize the governor to "enter into an agreement with another state for purpose of cross-jurisdictional coordination and enforcement of marijuana-related businesses," and "specifies that borders of this state must abut borders of other state." In other words, SB 582 would allow Oregon to set up agreements with states that touch Oregon to effectively enter into an interstate commerce agreement with those states. In this current climate of federal prohibition of marijuana, the bill is not much more than a "just in case" move—but it's a just in case that could help Oregon solidify its position as a big producer and exporter of this green crop.
Knowing when or how marijuana becomes de-scheduled is like reading tea leaves—but momentum is moving in favor of federal legalization. Members of Congress, including our own Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.-3), have introduced numerous bills that would de-schedule marijuana. Wyden introduced a bill of that type this month—adding in a provision for federal excise taxes that would see the federal government getting a piece of the revenue pie. Ten states have fully legalized recreational as well as medical marijuana; 33 states have medical marijuana programs as of this year. It's clear that the demand for the product is there, and in some places, the demand can't keep up with supply. Canada now has legal cannabis, but recreational shops are still closing early or staying closed on certain days because of undersupply. It's clear Oregon is producing the oranges that many other regions would gladly make into orange juice.
Until marijuana is de-scheduled at the federal level, the framework that SB 582 would lay out would be a formality. Should the governors of neighboring states dare to actually set up interstate commerce and allow legal weed between Oregon, California, Nevada and Washington right now, they'd be playing a big game of felonious dare.
Still, having the framework in place that SB 582 would allow would mean that Oregon would be ahead of the game, should federal legalization happen. Oregon would be more readily equipped to begin exporting marijuana and dealing with the regulations necessary to do so—ahead of some other states that may want to get into the business. That would be a positive step, a boon to a strong sector of the Oregon economy—one that has been responsible for millions flowing into schools, fire departments and police departments in the state already. Were we able to sell more, it stands to reason that those institutions would also see more tax revenue—and without much more burden on local law enforcement, to boot.
Legislators should move to pass the bill—which had its first public hearing this week—to lay the groundwork for turning Oregon's oversupply problem into an export opportunity.