For 2nd year in row, Ore. sees bumper crop of pot

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - NEWS - As­so­ci­ated Press SALEM, ORE.

For the sec­ond year in a row, Ore­gon cannabis farm­ers have har­vested more than a mil­lion pounds of us­able mar­i­juana.

The huge har­vest is again driv­ing down prices for con­sumers and putting pres­sure on grow­ers who aren’t get­ting the price they hoped for af­ter a sim­i­lar phe­nom­e­non in 2017, The Bul­letin re­ported Thurs­day.

Ore­gon’s cannabis mar­ket is lim­ited to sales within the state’s bor­ders, yet the state of about 4 mil­lion peo­ple has 1,107 li­censed ac­tive pro­duc­ers and an­other 900 pro­duc­ers seek­ing li­censes from the Ore­gon Liquor Con­trol Com­mis­sion.

There is also no cap on the num­ber of li­censes is­sued by the state, but the com­mis­sion did place a tem­po­rary freeze on new ap­pli­ca­tions last sum­mer to try to ad­dress the glut.

“Ev­ery­one is con­cerned about this,” said Adam Smith, Craft Cannabis Al­liance ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor. “You’ll see peo­ple go­ing out of busi­ness in the spring when it’s plant­ing time. There are far too many in the in­dus­try in distress. No one is mak­ing money here.”

Grow­ers har­vested more than 2.5 mil­lion pounds of cannabis in Oc­to­ber. Of that so-called wet har­vest, 1.3 mil­lion pounds of us­able mar­i­juana was logged into the Ore­gon Liquor Con­trol Com­mis­sion’s cannabis track­ing sys­tem as of De­cem­ber, ac­cord­ing to the agency’s lat­est re­port.

In 2017, the fall har­vest reaped nearly 2.6 mil­lion pounds of wet prod­uct and about 1 mil­lion pounds of us­able mar­i­juana.

Last year, cannabis farm­ers statewide cut back the amount they planted, while oth­ers didn’t plant at all, and some sur­ren­dered their li­censes, said Don Morse, a Port­land cannabis con­sul­tant. As of Wed­nes­day, 70 grower li­censes were ex­pired, and 57 li­censes were sur­ren­dered, ac­cord­ing to com­mis­sion data.

There is one sil­ver lin­ing: Peo­ple are buy­ing so much pot that Ore­gon’s mar­i­juana tax col­lec­tions have ex­ceeded the fore­cast by 7 per­cent in the 2017-2019 bi­en­nium, ac­cord­ing to the Ore­gon Of­fice of Eco­nomic Anal­y­sis.

State econ­o­mists noted that on­go­ing growth in sales vol­umes has been more than enough to make up for fall­ing prices.

“Be­cause of the fed­eral il­le­gal­ity, there is not a bal­ance be­tween sup­pli­ers and de­mand,” said Beau Whit­ney, se­nior econ­o­mist and vice pres­i­dent of New Fron­tier Data, a cannabis mar­ket re­search firm. “If it was an open mar­ket and it was le­gal through­out the United States, there would be de­mand and prices would sta­bi­lize.”

Prices for pot last year plunged as much as 50 per­cent, Whit­ney said. This year could see prices drop by 35 to 50 per­cent more, he said.

“There is no short-term fix for this,” Whit­ney said. “You have a lot of sup­ply in the sys­tem, and it will take a while for it to flow through the sys­tem.”

Gov. Kate Brown said Thurs­day in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters that the dis­crep­ancy be­tween state and fed­eral laws re­mains the big­gest hur­dle for al­le­vi­at­ing the over­sup­ply.

The newly sworn-in Congress could push through changes to help grow­ers, she added. The U.S. House is con­trolled by Democrats, in­clud­ing some who fa­vor mak­ing mar­i­juana le­gal at the fed­eral level, such as Ore­gon Rep. Earl Blu­me­nauer.

Brown said she also hopes that Congress will act to al­low banks to do busi­ness with the mar­i­juana in­dus­try.

“This Congress can be of in­cred­i­ble use to us,” she said.

At the state level, Ore­gon State Sen. Floyd Prozan­ski, a Demo­crat from Eu­gene, plans to rein­tro­duce parts of a 2017 bill that would have al­lowed Ore­gon to en­ter into agree­ments with Cal­i­for­nia and Washington for co­or­di­na­tion of mar­i­juana-re­lated busi­nesses, The States­man Jour­nal re­ported this week.

Ship­ping mar­i­juana by air would be pro­hib­ited and pot couldn’t be trans­ported through a state that didn’t agree.

Brown said she wants to work with Prozan­ski and oth­ers on statutes that could al­le­vi­ate Ore­gon’s pot prob­lem.

The num­bers in the com­mis­sion re­port also re­flect the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of con­cen­trates and tinc­tures over the dried mar­i­juana flower — the “bud” that’s tra­di­tion­ally been smoked for a high.

That dove­tails with a study of consumer habits by New Fron­tier Data and MJ Free­way, a cannabis tech­nol­ogy firm, The Bul­letin said. The mar­ket share of con­cen­trates has nearly reached par­ity with flower, grow­ing 138 per­cent since 2015, from 16 per­cent of re­tail sales to 38 per­cent in Oc­to­ber 2018, ac­cord­ing to the study.

‘‘ EV­ERY­ONE IS CON­CERNED ABOUT THIS. YOU’LL SEE PEO­PLE GO­ING OUT OF BUSI­NESS IN THE SPRING WHEN IT’S PLANT­ING TIME. THERE ARE FAR TOO MANY IN THE IN­DUS­TRY IN DISTRESS. NO ONE IS MAK­ING MONEY HERE. Adam Smith, Craft Cannabis Al­liance ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor

DON RYAN AP file

Ore­gon cannabis pro­duc­ers have again har­vested more than a mil­lion pounds of fresh mar­i­juana. The Bul­letin re­ported Thurs­day that the bumper crop is again driv­ing down prices for con­sumers and putting pres­sure on grow­ers who aren't get­ting the price they hoped for.

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