Pubdate: Mon, 27 Jun 2016
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2016 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: Eric Mortenson, Capital Press


SALEM (AP) - Sales and tax figures collected by state agencies may 
finally solve one of Oregon's long-running farm crop questions: 
whether marijuana is indeed the state's most valuable crop, as 
cannabis advocates have maintained.

Tight controls and reporting requirements by the Oregon Department of 
Revenue and Oregon Liquor Control Commission should result in 
accurate information about pot, said Bruce Pokarney, spokesman for 
the state Department of Agriculture. The department compiles an 
annual list of the state's most valuable crops.

The temporary sale of recreational marijuana by medical marijuana 
dispensaries became legal in Oregon last October. Dispensaries charge 
a 25 percent tax on sales. When licensed recreational retailers begin 
operating in January, the state tax will be 17 percent.

As of May 30, the state had collected $14.9 million in marijuana sales taxes.

The information, however, poses another head-scratcher. Most 
agricultural statistics published by the ag department come from the 
USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS. Although 
it's now legal in several states, the feds still classify marijuana 
as an illegal drug. Dave Losh, Oregon state statistician for NASS, 
said the agency won't include marijuana in its annual crop statistics 
due to federal policy.

For the same reason, people can't use water from federal projects to 
irrigate marijuana, he said, and such things as Natural Resources 
Conservation Service programs can't be applied to pot crops.

Pokarney, of ODA, joked the department might have to put an asterisk 
beside the pot crop value in its annual report. "We will have sales 
numbers, but I don't know how we would report it," he said.

Oregon crop statistics from 2014 list cattle and calves as the 
state's top agricultural product, at $922 million value. Greenhouse 
and nursery plants was second at $829 million, and hay was third, at 
$703 million.

Seth Crawford, an Oregon State University sociology professor who 
teaches a pot policy class, estimated in 2015 that Oregon's marijuana 
crop had an annual value approaching $1 billion.

Meanwhile, the OLCC continues to process license applications as 
entrepreneurs seek opportunities in the state's recreational cannabis market.

As of June 21, there were 723 applications to grow pot in Oregon. Of 
those, 122 were in Jackson County and 91 were in neighboring 
Josephine County. Southern Oregon has long been the state's cannabis 
production hotbed, legal or illegal. The tri-county Portland area, 
including Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, accounted for 
250 of the license applications.

Of processing facilities, 25 of the 82 license applications were from 
Multnomah County, as were 69 of 193 retail outlet applications.

The state also received applications from seven testing labs, 57 
wholesalers and one research facility.

Some licenses have been approved, many others are in draft form or 
are being reviewed for land-use compliance by local governments.

Information from: Capital Press,
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom