Even Though Marijuana Is Legal In Oregon, Some People Still Grow It Without Permission
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said this week that deputies found about $2.2 million worth of marijuana at illegal grow sites in Scappoose, Deer Island, and Clatskanie on March 1. They found 6,611 plants and 133.5 pounds of processed marijuana.
Even though the find itself wasn’t that big of a deal outside of Columbia County—just last year, 105 tons of illegally grown cannabis were found across the state—it does raise the question of why people still grow marijuana illegally in Oregon.
In 2015, the state made it legal to own and use marijuana. The year before, voters passed Ballot Measure 91. The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission said that as of February 15, 2023, there were almost 800 active licenses to sell marijuana in Oregon.
The answer is that more people want marijuana outside of Oregon than inside of it.
“Because cannabis is illegal in many states, there is a reason for people who grow it illegally to try to ship it to those states. “Producers of recreational marijuana who have licenses from the OLCC (and other licensees) must sell their products within Oregon’s borders,” said Mark Pettinger, a commission representative.
Western Oregon is a good place to grow marijuana because it is warm and has a nice landscape. The soil is rich, soft, and sandy, and it rains a lot.
Pettinger said, “It grows well in Oregon, especially outside.”
Pettinger says that even though Oregon has set itself up to be a legal export state if and when the federal law on marijuana changes to allow interstate sales, it is still illegal to send marijuana to states that haven’t legalized it.
In 2019, when Kate Brown was governor, she signed Senate Bill 582 into law. This made it legal to move cannabis from one state to another. But the law is just a goal; licensed growers and distributors are not allowed to follow it.
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Under the law, marijuana could only be shipped between states that have legalized it, and even that can’t happen until the federal government changes the rules about cannabis sales between states.
SB 582 was meant to get rid of the state’s extra cannabis, but Oregon hasn’t seen any benefits yet.
Still, Pettinger says that in Oregon, having a license is better than not having one.
“Being in the legal system means that people in the legal industry don’t have to worry about law enforcement as long as they follow state laws and OLCC rules. “It means that consumers will be able to buy food that has been tested and is regulated,” he said.
But it can be hard to get a license.
Growers have to fill out an initial form, a land use compatibility statement, a map of the property and information about how the business is set up, a marijuana applicant questionnaire, an individual history form, and a producer property owner informed consent form.
It costs $250 to fill out the form. Growers must also show that all of their employees have licenses, which costs $100 per employee.
Whether or not you can finish this process and get approved depends on whether or not Oregon is accepting license applications at the moment. At the moment, it’s not.
Brown also signed Senate Bill 218 into law in 2019. This bill gives the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission the power to deny licenses for marijuana production based on how much of the drug is already on the market and how much people want to buy it.
In 2022, Brown’s last year as governor, he signed House Bill 4016, which says that the commission must stop taking applications for new licenses as a producer, processor, retailer, or wholesaler. The stop-work order will last until March 31, 2024.
“Getting a license is so hard that a lot of people go to the black market because it’s easier,” said Emily Marshall, who works as a manager at the St. Helens dispensary Gnome Grown. “When you grow something and take it to a state where it isn’t legal, you can obviously charge a lot more for it. It makes a lot of money.”
Marshall said that even though it is illegal to grow marijuana in Oregon, there is still a market for it.
“I mean, we live in an area with a lot of good soil. “Most of the people I know grow,” said Marshall.
People can grow up to four plants per household in Oregon right now, but this limit is hard to enforce.
Marshall said, “It’s pretty easy for anyone and their mother or grandmother to grow weed these days.” “And then they usually have extra money and want to make a little extra money on the side.”
The main reason people grow cannabis illegally is to sell it across state lines. However, there are also people who grow to sell unlicensed marijuana for a profit in Oregon, hoping to undercut the prices at legal shops and dispensaries.
“Obviously, it hurts us when people watch us buy marijuana outside of a dispensary,” Marshall said.