Lead image by Brian Blomerth
Since weed is still federally outlawed, state-legal cannabis companies can’t ship marijuana products across state lines. But that may soon change if an Oregon export program can clear two more bureaucratic hurdles, one of which requires the federal government to greenlight the program.
On Thursday, Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown signed SB 582, informally known as the weed “export bill.” The bill allows Oregon cannabis companies to transport weed to other US states that also have legal cannabis programs.
“This is a very strong statement by the Oregon Legislature, and one that will reverberate across the country,” Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a press release last week. “The future of this industry is that cannabis will primarily be grown where it grows best, and most efficiently, and most sustainably. That’s what functioning legal markets do.”
To legally export weed, partner states must first consent to import Oregon’s shipments, meaning the other states must pass similar bills or ordinances to accept the Beaver State’s weed.
Check Out: Hilariously Bad Stock Photos of People Smoking Weed
The second hurdle may prove trickier. It requires the federal government to also give its blessing to weed imports/exports, either through stature — meaning the passage of a new federal law — or through “tolerance” — meaning the Department of Justice issues a memo saying that, yeah, it’s cool to ship that weed, and no, the feds will not use their resources to interfere.
“The goal of the campaign was not to pass this bill,” Adam Smith, the founder and director of the Craft Cannabis Alliance and one of SB 582’s co-authors, told MERRY JANE over the phone. “The goal was to get multiple state governors to call on the federal government to allow us to transport product.”
Too Much of a Good Thing
Oregon’s legal weed market brewed the perfect storm for SB 582’s passage. When Oregon approved recreational weed in 2015, the state pretty much dished out cultivation licenses to anyone who qualified, with low barriers to entry, low application fees, and no caps on how many licenses could be issued.
The recreational program, though revolutionary, set up a disaster. Despite Oregon being the source of some of the world’s highest quality weed, the fledgling industry got ahead of itself. Like, way, way ahead of itself. Producers produced too much primo cannabis, flooding the market — which has a total population of fewer than 3.5 million adults — and forcing prices to plummet. So much weed was grown that the state temporarily suspended cultivation so the market could stabilize. Tons and tons of perfectly good weed are literally withering and rotting away in storage, with few customers in state to sell to. Last year, Oregon had about 1.3 million pounds of unsold pot due to the oversupply problem.
“The Emerald Region from Eugene, Oregon to Mendocino County in California supplied 75 to 80 percent of the cannabis in the US” prior to legalization, Smith said. Oregon is “a market of approximately 4 million people, half of whom get their weed for free from friends and family. Everybody’s going out of business because they can’t operate in an oversaturated market.”
The solution was obvious to Smith: Open the state borders so Oregon’s cannabis industry could operate just like it used to, by shipping incredibly dank weed to other states that can’t, or won’t, grow weed of comparable quality. Except through SB 582, it’d be done legally.
How would exporting weed look under SB 582? Theoretically, Oregon’s pot companies could export cannabis, for example, to Massachusetts. But since several states reside between Massachusetts and Oregon — states that don’t have legal weed — transporting semi-legal products could create new complications. And SB 582 contains an ingenious workaround.
That workaround is the railroads. Railroads were designed to ship massive quantities of goods across state lines, so they’re almost entirely subject to federal regulations, not state ones. Furthermore, because federal regulations protect goods transported on trains, state authorities wouldn’t be able to touch the weed riding the rails.
Smith is certain that weed-legal states like California will pass consent policies with Oregon. That hurdle isn’t really the issue, besides the time it will take to get other states on board. The limiting factor is the federal government.
“All of this depends on getting the feds to agree to do this,” Smith said.
Will the Department of Justice — or better yet, the US Congress — play ball? President Trump has said he’d respect states’ rights when it comes to legal weed, and his Attorney General, William Barr, has said he’d support weed reforms, too.
They’re not exactly two politicians known for being honest (then again, which politician is?), but they do love money. At the very least, Oregon can bank on that.
We will continue updating this story as the licensed interstate transport bill progresses. Stay tuned for more.
Follow Randy Robinson on Twitter