Marijuana continues to grow a year after legalization
The recreational marijuana industry is “doing phenomenal” in Eugene, Oregon.
That’s what Courtney Delaplain, the manager of a local dispensary named Casper’s, said of Eugene’s newest industry.
A recent report published by the Department of Revenue shows that Oregon state-licensed dispensaries sold $42.2 million worth of recreational marijuana in June and July combined. This comes after selling $59.6 million worth from January to May.
One person who is adding to this state’s newest source of revenue is Tallia Riemel, a 23-year-old local grower who has been in the industry for the last eight months.
Riemel invested nearly $20,000 to start, including $3,750 a year to maintain a state license.
Many like Riemel are getting into the industry, but the first steps are expensive.
Owner of Oregon Microgrowers Guild Adam Jacques says that, “[The costs] add up pretty quickly. If people can’t keep up with the requirements, they will be washing out.”
It’s been a year since legalization, and many hiccups in the emerging industry still remain.
As a Schedule I substance, the federal government groups marijuana with other drugs such as heroin and LSD. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration continues to reject requests from several state governors to declassify weed as a dangerous drug — stating it has no medical benefit.
Eugene has deep roots in marijuana culture – people have been growing and consuming the Schedule I drug here for decades, Jacques said. Having grown medical marijuana since 1998, Jacques is noticing changes that are turning the industry upside down.
“It’s very cost-prohibitive,” Oregon Microgrowers Guild manager Jon de Kluyver said. “You have to be business savvy to stay sustainable in this business.”
From high-priced licensing to the overregulation of farms, the system has become too bureaucratic, said Jacques.
“The state really overregulated a lot of this market,” Jacques said. “They’re treating it as though it is a poison, or like we’re dealing with nuclear weapons, when it’s just plant-growing.”
Jon de Kluyer searches for spiders under a marijuana plant in the Oregon Microgrowers Guild. (Aaron Nelson/Emerald)
At his 20,000 square foot outdoor cannabis farm, Jacques said he has 42 surveillance cameras running at all times. According to state regulations, farms must be equipped with video surveillance systems that can monitor the whole farm in any lighting conditions.
“It’s easier to rob a bank than an [Oregon Liquor Control Commission] approved weed farm. Only idiots would do it,” Jacques said.
Temporary regulations for the industry can be found in a 78-page document located at Oregon.gov.
Before recreational marijuana was legalized, there were no regulations, OLCC spokesperson Mark Pettinger said. “So any amount of regulations can be considered overregulated.”
Qualifying to be a recreational weed grower is not difficult, Pettinger said. The state only requires that applicants be Oregon residents for at least two years and possess a clean background without drug and alcohol violations or a history of felonies; however, of the 829 growing license applicants, only 194 have been accepted.
Although he says that qualification to apply is simple, Pettinger acknowledges the inspection process is complicated and time-consuming – considering there are only seven inspectors on the team for the whole state.
All applicants must file a Land Use Compatibility Statement. The process requires applicants to submit a form stating the use of the land to local government, along with a fee of $130. After local government inspects the proposed site and ensures it adheres with local land use regulations, applicants then submit the date stamped form to OLCC. Only then is OLCC able to begin its own inspection process.
Incomplete applications will also not be processed right away.
When Measure 91 was passed, it didn’t only affect growing, processing and selling weed. Medical marijuana users were also impacted.
Delaplain agrees. Because the dosage of medical marijuana is now capped, she has seen many patients struggle. Although patients can go to multiple dispensaries to acquire enough, it’s a big inconvenience, she said.
One dose of cannabis-infused edibles can have no more than 15 milligrams of THC.
“Now I’m hacking people’s doses in half,” Delaplain said, referring to the 180 milligram chocolate bars she once sold whole.
Some patients are able to meet their needs on the black market, Jacques said. Although the legal market is thriving, the black market is here to stay as long as marijuana remains a schedule I substance, Jacques said.
Jacques said most growers in Oregon are “guerrilla growers,” who grow marijuana without registering with the state. They often smuggle it out of Oregon to the Midwest and the East Coast.
OLCC is joining in the Franwell Metrc Cannabis Tracking System to prevent licensees from leaking their cannabis product to the black market, Pettinger said. The technology uses a unique serial code system that allows the government to track the mass of every plant.
Since April, OLCC has received over 1,298 applications for laboratory, processor, producer, retailer, wholesaler and research certificates, with the overwhelming majority being for recreational producers.
Eugene’s marijuana industry is now established, and with growing profits, there are regulations and taxes. As marijuana seems to be moving toward normalcy, it faces many problems that other successful industries have overcome.
“[Marijuana] is still a taboo,” Jacques said. “There’s a large market out there, and it’s only been tapped in very few states.”
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