By Johnny Green
I am a proud fourth generation Oregonian. My grandfather was arrested for cultivating, possessing, and distributing marijuana, and the same can be said about my father. My dad was SWAT raided three times for marijuana in Oregon. He served his time, and has since moved away from marijuana, but my dad is still an big supporter of marijuana reform.
I became an activist in Oregon in 1998. I was heading towards graduation in high school in 1999, having attended school via Oregon’s public school system from kindergarten through 12th grade. I would go on to graduate from an Oregon community college with two associate’s degrees, and then graduated from a public Oregon university with my bachelor’s degree (public policy major, summa cum laude). When I say that I am ‘Oregon proud’ I mean it.
But it has been hard to be as proud as I have been over the years in regards to the State of Oregon, at least from a cannabis policy standpoint. After helping the late great Jim Greig save the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) from being obliterated in 2012 by then Attorney General candidate Dwight Holton, I helped the Measure 91 effort, alongside MANY other activists. The victory has been bittersweet, as it has since been followed by the dismantling of the OMMP.
Some will blame Measure 91 for the demise of the OMMP, but that is not accurate. Oregon Measure 91, and the people who voted for it, were very clear that the OMMP would remain untouched post-Measure 91. But that has not been the case. A combination of legislators that lack compassionate, empire building bureaucrats, and a handful of greedy industry lobbyists (most of which aren’t even from Oregon) has resulted in the current scenario in which the OMMP is about to be rolled up under the OLCC umbrella, and instead of quality medical cannabis growers supplying patients, a bulk of the medical marijuana supplied in the future will likely come via the OLCC’s ‘bump up’ program.
The bump up program has not rolled out yet, but is listed on the OLCC website’s FAQ’s, making it an all but certain reality that the OLCC will eventually take over everything from the Oregon Health Authority except issuing medical cards. The merging of the two programs has not occurred yet, but with the OLCC already listing the bump up program on their site, it STRONGLY indicates that the merge is already a forgone conclusion. Someone has to oversee the logistics and regulation of the bump up program, and the only way it happens smoothly from the State of Oregon’s standpoint is if the merge happens. Otherwise it will be a logistical nightmare.
Now the Oregon Legislature can act as if their hands are clean on the issue, because after all ‘they had to merge the programs in order to ensure compliance.’ Trust me, the rhetoric is coming. Legislators will continue to claim that the justification for trampling the OMMP is because marijuana is being diverted to the unregulated market. But what they have yet to talk about, at least from what I can tell, is that there is strong proof in the public realm which shows that at least one prominent recreational producer has been (or may still be) diverting unregulated marijuana INTO the regulated market.
As I understand it, seed to sale tracking only tracks the plants, not the harvest. This allows a situation in which an OLCC producer can ‘pad their stats’ by purchasing marijuana form an outside source, and acting as if they were the ones that grew it. Why in the world would someone do that you ask? I think it’s a safe assumption that this would be done to make a business look more successful than it is, presumably for the purpose of getting a large investment.
I talked about this with a couple of buddies recently, and one of them said that this is common in the restaurant industry. Ingredients and other items will be purchased ‘off the books’ which then results in the restaurant looking more profitable than it actually is. By the time the investor finds out that the business actually sucks, the investment money is long gone. This may be hard to prove in the restaurant industry, but it’s actually not that difficult to spot in the marijuana industry.
Let me throw around some numbers. Hypothetically, let us say that a company claims to make $35,000 a month off of a 320 sq ft canopy marijuana garden. To the average investor, they are just looking at the final profit number, and $35,000 is a large amount. The investor then thinks, well shoot, if I just give them a bunch of money and the ratio holds up, it will be the investment of a lifetime! But look at the math closer.
Throwing out such things as rent, electricity, the cost of nutrients, the cost of employees, licensing, attorney fees, etc., look at just the $35,000 a month figure. At a wholesale price of $1,600 per pound of marijuana, that would work out to 21.875 pounds of marijuana. This would need to be harvested and sold EVERY month for the math to work out. At 320 sq ft of canopy, that is impossible. Is a 21.875 pound indoor harvest possible in a 320 sq ft canopy space? Sure. But EVERY month? No way. Not even if two rooms of equal size (160 sq ft) were used, and the harvests were on an exact cycle, cropping and drying each room like clockwork, with one room being completely done every month. And all of the harvest being sold no less. That is simply not possible.
When you consider all of the costs of doing business to make the garden legit, it gets even farther out of reach. The only logical explanation for a company to be doing this, yet remaining in compliance in the eyes of state regulators, is to have brought marijuana from outside of the regulated system and passed it off as being grown by the licensed producer. Sounds ridiculous? Sadly, this is the type of claim that yields multiple millions of dollars in investments, and also likely helps the producer when they are lobbying the Oregon Legislature to try to gut the OMMP, and instead let producers like themselves take over cultivating medical marijuana.
I love activism, and marijuana, and the State of Oregon. But my heart has been very heavy lately. If someone wants to come to Oregon from another state and try to succeed in Oregon’s cannabis industry, I have no problem with that. But when it comes at the expense of Oregon patients, I have a very big problem with that, especially when it involves the collaboration of Oregon legislators and Oregon regulators who want to pick at the OMMP harvests that go to the unregulated market, but do nothing to prevent the opposite from happening, and in the process, indirectly assist in the fleecing of honest people. The don’t care about fixing problems. They only care about the dollars. Sad times. Sad times indeed.
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