Canna-Legal States Fight Pot Smuggling to Ward Off Feds
Legal cannabis states are producing way more weed than state residents can consume.
Published on August 15, 2017

Canna-legal states are organizing efforts to stop the smuggling of legally-grown weed to states where it is legal, in hopes to stave off a federal crackdown on legal cannabis. Cannabis growers in Oregon produce between 132 and 900 tons more weed than the state's residents can consume, according to a recent Oregon State Police report. Much of this excess marijuana is smuggled out-of-state. In California, cannabis growers are reportedly producing an excess of 11 million pounds of weed a year, which is also being trafficked across state lines.

So far, the preferred method of preventing illegal trafficking of legal cannabis is seed-to-sale tracking. Oregon recently passed a law requiring that state regulators track all cannabis plants from the packaging of the seeds all the way through to the sale of the final cannabis product. Tina Kotek, speaker of the Oregon House, said that “there was a real recognition that things could be changing in D.C.,” and that the new law will ensure that “we're protecting the new industry that we're supporting here.”

Washington state already has a tracking system set up, but the state is planning to replace this system with a “highly secure, reliable, scalable and flexible system” by November 1st. California voters also approved a tracking system for legal cannabis sales, which will begin next year. “In the first 24 months, we’re going to have a good idea who is in the regulated market and who is in black market,” state Senator Mike McGuire said.

“The tracking system is the most important tool a state has,” said Michael Crabtree of Denver-based Nationwide Compliance Specialists Inc. However, these systems are not foolproof, and Crabtree noted that Colorado's tracking system doesn't account for home grows or some noncommercial cannabis caregivers. Crabtree also noted that his company has seen “numerous examples of people ‘forgetting’ to tag plants.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently tried to convince Congress not to renew the amendment preventing the Justice Department from interfering with state-legal cannabis operations. Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer said that Sessions is “out of step” with the majority of Congress, who are beginning to support “ending the failed prohibition on marijuana.”

“Marijuana has left Oregon for decades,” Blumenauer said. “What’s different is that now we have better mechanisms to try to control it.”

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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