Oregon is in the middle of a weed glut. With so much product and so many growers, the state had to put a temporary freeze on issuing new cultivation licenses. The surplus threatens growers’ profits. And concerns have peaked among Oregon regulators that some of all that excess cannabis is ending up in illicit markets out of state. To attempt to address the problem, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is rolling out new rules for licensed outdoor growers, including a harvest notification policy.
The new rules are replacing the relatively relaxed regulatory environment that favored growers’ interests.
Oregon’s Harvest Notification Policy Takes Effect Saturday
One of those new rules is a harvest notification policy. The policy will take effect this Saturday, beginning what’s essentially an audit of this year’s cannabis crop. Since the OLCC announced the policy earlier this year, growers have pushed back. Indeed, cultivators in no other adult-use state have to notify regulators when they’re harvesting. And with supply vastly outpacing demand in Oregon, growers say complying with the policy is cutting into their already-slim margins.
Oregon has a “seed to sale” tracking system similar to those in place in other adult-use states. But the new harvest policy implements the unique requirement of having cultivators enter their info by 9 a.m. on the day of a harvest. And day-of notification was a compromise. Initially, the OLCC wanted 72 hours advance notice, until intense opposition from growers prompted them to tweak the deadline.
Upon notification, one of OLCC’s inspectors will arrive on site and take a count of plants and packages. Then, they’ll make sure the tally matches the seed-to-sale data in the system. The process will spread the state’s resources thin. There are hundreds of licensed grow sites in Oregon, yet just 23 inspectors on OLCC staff. So not every site will undergo an audit, but regulators hope the possibility will be enough to disincentivize black-market diversion.
Inspectors plan to target areas in southern Oregon they believe are hotbeds of diversion and other illegal cannabis operations. But growers say the state shouldn’t be targeting licensed growers at all.
Growers Bemoan The Loss of Looser Oversight
Pete Gendron, president of the Oregon SunGrowers Guild, says he’s unaware of a single instance of a licensed grower diverting product. And the reason is obvious, he says. No one who has invested significant time and resources into setting up a licensed, legal operation is going to risk that investment interacting with the illicit market.
Rather, growers argue, regulators should target Oregon’s illicit operations. Prominent legalization advocate Anthony Johnson said states should worry about unlicensed grows, who have no choice but to move product illicitly. Last week, six people were brought in on federal drug trafficking charges. But none were registered with the state’s legal cannabis program. According to the AP, sheriffs in the regions the OLCC plans to prioritize for inspection are asking for more resources to combat illegal cultivation.
Seeing their once permissive system slipping away—Oregon growers enjoyed out-of-state investment, no licensing caps, and other perks—cultivators aren’t happy about the new rules. In fact, many feel like scapegoats in the state’s efforts to mollify federal officials who’ve been vocal with their displeasure at Oregon’s looser approach.