Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jul 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


It's been suspected for some time that a lot more marijuana was being 
produced by medical growers than could be consumed by patients, and 
now the evidence is beginning to surface.

First came the arrest of a Jackson County dispensary owner in 
Siskiyou County for allegedly hauling marijuana across the California 
line for illegal sale.

Now an economic analysis has concluded that a huge percentage of 
marijuana ostensibly grown in Josephine County for medical patients 
is instead feeding the black market.

The Grants Pass Daily Courier reports the study, prepared by the 
consulting firm ECONorthwest on behalf of Grants Pass and Josephine 
County, estimated 70 percent of the medical marijuana produced in 
Oregon is not being consumed by patients. The analyst who made that 
estimate admits it's a guess, but it's probably a fairly good one. 
And it suggests that those who defend the medical marijuana industry 
should get serious about cleaning up the image of what is supposed to 
be a compassionate endeavor.

When Oregon voters legalized marijuana for recreational use by 
adults, it put state statutes in conflict with federal law, which 
still considers marijuana illegal for any purpose. Federal 
authorities told state officials they would take a hands-off approach 
to what the voters had legalized as long as the state cracked down 
hard on black-market production that sent marijuana out of state.

The result was a new system of regulation for the medical marijuana 
industry, which had operated without much oversight for years. 
Growers and advocates protested that the new rules would jeopardize 
patients' access to medicine they need to counter the pain of chronic 
and terminal illnesses.

The ECONorthwest study looked at the number of plants allowed the 
number of patients, and concluded that large quantities are 
"disappearing" from the market.

One grower in Williams disputed the 70 percent figure, saying the 
real numbers are probably reversed. That would mean 30 percent of the 
crop is being diverted. Even if that's the accurate figure, it's 
still too much if the goal is a functioning legal marketplace 
operating in the light of day and accountable to regulators who are 
trying to keep federal drug agents at bay.

The new world of legal recreational marijuana and stricter reporting 
requirements for producers of both recreational and medical marijuana 
will take time to sort out. In the meantime, growers who continue to 
operate illegally are doing their law-abiding colleagues no favors.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom