Lower prices for consumers are a good thing, but some state lawmakers want to “fix” that with marijuana. They want to give the state the power to limit licenses to marijuana growers. Senate Bill 218 is a ham-handed attempt to control the market that will hurt consumers.

Having passed the state Senate on a party-line vote, the bill is in the House. It should be allowed to die there.

The bill would give the Oregon Liquor Control Commission the power to deny licenses to growers when supply exceeds demand, as it now does. The law wouldn’t extend to renewal of existing licenses, but it would prevent newcomers from entering the market.

Oregon does have plenty of marijuana, to be sure. By some estimates, there are 1 million pounds more weed than consumers can use stored around the state — enough to last legitimate users for six years. The result, dramatically lower prices, should come as no surprise. Prices in Oregon dropped to about $4 a gram last year, and another good harvest is expected to keep prices low and make it difficult for growers to make a profit. That is not a problem the state is under any obligation to fix. Oregon shouldn’t guarantee profits for pot.

If left alone, the market would surely continue to sort itself out. Sooner or later, some producers will decide they cannot make a living in Oregon’s weed market.

Blocking new businesses from competing, as SB 218 would do, is not fair to them, nor to consumers. Keeping those interested from entering the legal market could well drive them underground and into the marijuana export business.

No one in government wants that, and neither should other Oregonians. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and there are those in federal government, including Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, who are ready and willing to step in should illegal exports jump toward prelegalization levels.

Rather than limiting licenses, lawmakers should tell the OLCC to continue to regulate the industry as it has, and allow the market to correct itself without stepping into to hurt consumers. They’ll do just that by killing SB 218.

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