A new report from the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area reaffirms that the state’s marijuana industry is fraught with challenges. The real question is: When is the state going to rise to meet them?
Many of the issues in the report are not new. The report’s researchers attempted to quantify them — as best they could.
The state’s pot production capacity is estimated to be about 2 million pounds a year. That’s much more than the report’s estimated demand of as much as 372,000 pounds. It creates an opportunity for the black market shipments across state lines.
There have been additional health care costs believed to be due, in part, to changes in the law. The Oregon Burn Center spent $9.6 million for initial acute care treating inpatient burn victims from July 2015 through January 2018 due to cannabinoid extraction accidents.
There are also more thinly supported statements in the report. For instance, it says: “Due to historic use of and the exponential growth of cannabis cultivation, the Rogue River Basin is under acute hydrologic strain.” There’s reason to believe it’s true, but the report’s researchers couldn’t come up with actual numbers to demonstrate it.
Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Billy Williams told The Oregonian the findings confirm concerns that he has already had and discussed with state officials.
The state doesn’t have enough inspectors. It’s been behind on inspections. It has had problems getting the technology to meet licensing requirements. Law enforcement in Deschutes County have also had to reassign or hire new people to help investigate problems with the crop. The Legislature needs to ensure regulators and law enforcement have adequate resources to do their jobs.
The Legislature also needs to make other changes. The hoops that law enforcement have to jump through to determine what is a legal grow and what is not are ridiculous. Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson, District Attorney John Hummel and county commissioners have complained that the state won’t provide a list of legal medical grow sites in the county. Law enforcement have to, instead, go through the unnecessary step of making more specific requests.
Legalizing the sale of a drug that remains illegal on the federal level is going to be problematic. Voters chose it. State government needs to live up to its responsibility to provide reasonable regulation and enforcement.