Two cannabis groups want to educate the public, change policy and take the mystery out of cannabis, but for different constituencies.
One — Celebrate Cannabis — is a member-driven industry organization focusing on Central Oregon cannabis issues. The other is a business — Cannabis 101 — that will mix digital content with advertising sponsors and is designed to reach anyone in the community. Both launched within the past couple of months.
“We had stayed silent for a long time, but after hearing the loud minority talking in Central Oregon, we felt it about time we organized and speak up,” said Jennifer Clifton, an attorney and spokeswoman for Celebrate Cannabis, the nonprofit industry group. “Cannabis is a hot-button issue, and we’re focused on Central Oregon.”
In the years since recreational use was legalized by voters, there remains a lot of misinformation about legalized recreational cannabis in Oregon, the organizations say. The two organizations see themselves tackling the topic of cannabis along two fronts — from the business side, how much growers, processors and retailers contribute to the economy; to the social side, how much cannabis is too much and how to keep it out of the hands of underage users.
“Our effort is about truth and understanding,” said Jen Gyllenskog, director of Cannabis United, which operates the Cannabis 101 website from its Bend home. “Our organization’s efforts are mainly educational. We want to take the information out of the shadows and put it in the light.”
Recreational use of cannabis was made legal in Oregon in 2015 after voters approved Measure 91 and joined Colorado, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia in making recreational use legal.
According to estimates from the Oregon Health Authority, in 2016 established dispensaries had $79.4 million in sales to medical marijuana card holders and $215.3 million in recreational sales through the early retail sales program, as reported by the Oregon Employment Department. Oregon tax revenue collected in the cannabis industry in 2017 was $70 million, said Brian Rooney, Lane County regional economist for the Employment Department.
There are roughly 5,000 cannabis-related jobs in the third quarter of 2017, according to the department. And more than 27,000 active worker permits were issued by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. And those numbers are only growing.
Nationwide, recreational and medical cannabis is a $9.6 billion industry, said Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics, citing data from Arcview Market Research. Direct employment nationwide is expected to grow to nearly 300,000 by 2021, Adams said.
“There’s rampant misinformation out there that will take years to overcome,” said Adams. “It was an existing huge market that was brought into legal channels. The sales are going through the roof.”
Gyllenskog said at least a quarter of all customers who walk into a retail dispensary are first-time buyers or haven’t consumed cannabis in 25 years.
“I wanted to create a website to create social change,” Gyllenskog said. “I want to change hearts and minds, not just to drive profits.”
Celebrate Cannabis has about 50 members, Clifton said.
Its goal is to “normalize the conversation,” Clifton said. “The risks and the responsibilities of adult use. The future of our group is to work together with other agencies, such as local law enforcement and other public and private groups, to help solidify our position as a key industry in Central Oregon.”
Founding board members include Clifton, of Clifton Cannabis Law, Hunter Neubauer of Oregrown, Chris Telfer of Spectrum CPA group, Gary Bracelin of Tokyo Starfish, Judy Campbell of Campbell Consulting Group and Jack Robson of High Desert Pure.
Their goal is to support cannabis companies that believe in OLCC inspections, compliance and develop strategies to help reduce illegal grows and educate, according to Celebrate Cannabis’ website.
Lizette Coppinger, founder of Cannabend on N. U.S. Highway 97, said the bud tenders at her store spend a lot of time educating themselves on the nuances of the products so they are knowledgeable when customers come in.
“It’s hard to keep up,” Coppinger said. “We have to market in an overly saturated industry. Dispensary owners need to be consumers as well and try out the product and they need to care about the product.”
— Reporter: 541-633-2117, firstname.lastname@example.org