Oregon has a wealth of marijuana, far more than anyone expected. Now the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is apparently trying to decide if there’s too much of it, and if so, what should be done.
Here’s a hint: If there’s a glut, or if prices dip too low, some producers will get out of the business and move on to something else. The state, in other words, should stay out of it.
Oregon officials expected to receive between 800 and 1,200 applications for licenses after voters legalized recreational weed in November 2014. Instead, they have received more than 3,400 license applications, according to an article by Suzanne Roig in Sunday’s Bulletin.
Those now in the industry have been busy. In 2017 they produced roughly a million pounds of marijuana for the retail market, but of that, only about 108,330 pounds were sold. The rest is being stored, likely for later sales or to use in making concentrates and edibles.
The numbers are less startling than they sound. The legal marijuana industry is new, and no doubt some producers got into the business because they saw an opportunity. Already, according to Roig’s article, some are moving on to other things as wholesale prices fall.
It may be that OLCC officials are concerned that so much overproduction will tempt some producers to shift their wares to the illegal marijuana trade, something the state, rightfully, doesn’t want to see happen. But if it does, the problem lies more in adequate enforcement of existing regulations than it does in the fact that supply has outstripped demand.
Allowing markets to correct themselves may well be difficult for state employees to do. OLCC is in the business of controlling alcohol sales in Oregon. But just as OLCC does not decide how much liquor Bend craft distillers produce, it should not decide for marijuana producers how much they can grow.