August 30, 2018 — On Wednesday August 29, 2018, federal prosecutors arrested 6 people for marijuana trafficking out of Oregon to locations in Texas, Virginia and Florida. Two arrests were made in Portland, one in Hood River and three in Texas. Neither of the cultivation sites, or those arrested, were licensed with the recreational or medical programs in the state which raises serious questions about federal and state lawmakers concerns regarding diversion from Oregon’s regulated system.
“These cases provide clear evidence of what I have repeatedly raised concerns over: Oregon’s marijuana industry is attracting organized criminal networks looking to capitalize on the state’s relaxed regulatory environment,” said US Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams in a statement.
Does it really provide evidence of that, though?
Oregon has been a hot spot for cannabis cultivation for decades, many years before any medical or recreational marijuana was legalized by any state. Tons of cannabis flowed from Oregon to eastern regions of the US long before Oregon passed their legalization law in 1998 and the majority of the cannabis was grown in forested rural areas, or indoors, where it could be easily concealed. Do these arrests truly show that it is the current regulatory environment causing these illegal operations, or do the arrests simply indicate that Oregon is still a really good place to conceal your grow operation from authorities? I would argue that its the latter.
Their flawed premise that legal regulation encourages illegal cultivation, which is based only on conjecture and not actual evidence, is an argument based on emotion and reason only. There is an equally good, or bad, argument to be made that legalization has brought many more regulatory eyes upon the industry which makes a place like Oregon a risky locale to operate an illicit grow. Yet people still do it, as these arrests show.
They also unfairly accuse state licensed medical growers of being the biggest problem when it comes to diversion, but the number of licensed medical marijuana grows that have been involved in interstate trafficking is miniscule. In fact, one of the largest diversions relating to Oregon came in Nebraska late last year when Rich Wilkinson of Rich Extracts, a Oregon licensed recreational cannabis extractor, was busted with over a million dollars in extracts.
Earlier this year the Oregon Health Authority announced that they would be doing short notice inspections of outdoor medical grows, citing the risk of diversion as their impetus. But no significant evidence shows this to be a problem. It would be a safe bet for real cash money that law enforcement cannot discern the difference between outdoor grown and indoor grown cannabis in most instances.
Also quite disturbing was the decision of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to limit the daily purchases of medical patients at recreational dispensaries, which are the only places most medical patients have to access their medicine since almost every medical dispensary has switched to recreational status in the past three years. This blanket decision, based on a statistical analysis of purchases, could have a negative impact of hundreds of medical patients that often need large amounts of cannabis to make their own extracts, concentrates and edibles. Large amounts of flower are needed to create the proper products.
These officials, whether federal or state sponsored, also rely heavily on regional High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) reports which are not scientific and are produced by highly biased law enforcement drug enforcement teams. They rely on conjecture and emotion to drive home their message–marijuana use is a terrible problem that must be controlled. The Rocky Mountain HIDTA report of 2016 especially relied on “figures” from drug rehabilitation organizations that profit from court ordered rehabilitation and “evidence” from inflammatory and biased newspaper articles. The HIDTA reports are steeped in reefer madness attitudes from their authors and have no credibility outside of the drug enforcement world.
Diversion is not a big problem. What is a big problem, however, is the continuing attitude from law enforcement and legislators that cannabis is not an effective treatment for patients, that medical growers are the main source of illicit cannabis, and that it must be regulated much more strictly than alcohol or cigarettes, which kill literally thousands of people every day across the country.
It’s time for Billy Williams, and Oregon legislators and law enforcement, to focus on real problems and to stop demonizing cannabis.
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