Until August 24, Oregon’s medical cannabis patients enjoyed some expansive purchasing benefits, including the ability to buy up to 24 ounces of dry cannabis each day. But now, Oregon is drastically reducing patients’ purchasing power. Like adult-use buyers, medical cardholders in Oregon can now purchase just an ounce of cannabis each day. So why did Oregon regulators clamp down on medical sales?
Oregon Revokes 24-Ounce Per Day Cap For Medical Cannabis Purchases
24 ounces, or one and a half pounds of cannabis, is not an insignificant amount of product. Being able to buy that much a day might seem crazy for anyone who’s just familiar with smoking weed. How could any single person burn through that much cannabis a day?
Well, the point is that the 24-ounce purchase cap wasn’t put in place so medical patients could puff on shotgun shell joints non-stop for twenty-four hours. Rather, the cap is for allowing medical patients to purchase enough raw botanical cannabis to make their own products. Tinctures, oils, even edibles can require a serious amount of dried flower, especially when produced at volume.
Another reason was to deal with the geographic disparities in access to medical cannabis dispensaries. Oregon’s coastal cities, of course, have plenty of dispensaries and retail shops. But in the red parts of the state east of the Cascades, many municipalities have banned the cannabis industry. The situation is so dire that Oregon’s eastern plains have earned the nickname the “cannabis desert.” Medical patients who live there would have to constantly travel to obtain medicine were it not for the 24-ounce cap.
Fears Over Black Market Diversion Lead To Purchase Limits
But Oregon regulators are concerned that some of that medical cannabis is ending up on the black market. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has been analyzing sales data. And they’ve become increasingly convinced that some medical buyers are using the high purchase cap to divert some cannabis to the black market. Whether in Oregon’s dry counties or in its neighboring prohibition states, the OLCC is concerned about black market diversion.
According to OLCC spokesperson Mark Pettinger, large numbers of people were hitting the 24-ounce limit every single day. A few were even purchasing as much as seven pounds a week. And for Pettinger, that raises some suspicious. Could a single individual really consume and/or gift that much flower in a week?
And while the purchase cap made it simply possible for a bad actor to buy up and resell medical cannabis on the illicit market, Oregon’s plummeting prices are supplying the motivation.
There’s just too much cannabis in Oregon. Cultivators are too good at growing it, and supply is vastly outpacing demand. As a result, prices are dropping as retailers try to move product. Low prices cut into growers’ margins. And from there, the temptation to make up the losses with illicit sales can be too great.
Purchase Cap Protects Consumers
It’s a perfect storm, and it led to the OLCC’s snap decision to implement the emergency rule until December 27. And that’s probably the right call. Anti-cannabis U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that the Dept. of Justice is retaining its right to enforce federal cannabis law in weed-legal states. And one of the major triggers for an enforcement action is trafficking across state lines. If that’s what’s going on in Oregon, or there’s even the chance for it, the OLCC is stepping up for all Oregonians who consume cannabis by cracking down on it. Regulators will continue to investigate the situation.