Oregon's legal cannabis industry has been in a constant state of expansion since adult-use sales went live in 2014. The legal market has been thriving, but this consistent growth has proven to be too much of a good thing. As of last January, state regulators reported that local pot growers had stockpiled an excess 1.3 million pounds of weed.
Oregonians only buy between 166,000 and 375,000 pounds of pot a year, and state officials estimate that the current stash of grass could supply the state's demand for weed for the next six-and-a-half years. This massive overstock has drawn the watchful eye of federal law enforcement and sparked concerns about the state's legal grass ending up on the black market in prohibition states.
Industry insiders report that this situation is not as dire as authorities have feared, and that a good bit of the state's excess weed is actually rotting away in warehouses across the state. Many believe that regulators have overestimated the actual amount of excess pot because their calculation lumps together fresh, salable weed in with pot that's failed testing or is otherwise unsuitable for sale.
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"Almost certainly some amount of the existing inventory in the recreational system will never be sold,” said the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which regulates the state's weed industry, VICE reports. “It may become too stale to be sold or is of insufficient quality to compete in the current market environment. In fact, anecdotally some of it may already be waste that has not yet been disposed of."
The OLCC reports that a quarter of the pot included in its current inventory was actually harvested before 2018, which means that over 300,000 pounds of the state's reported pot stockpile is far too old to sell. State law requires cannabis producers to document the destruction of excess cannabis on camera in compliance with a long list of regulations, and many businesses simply haven't had the time to do so.
Tim Garrison, procurement manager at Hydra Distribution, told VICE that unsellable cannabis is a "pain in the butt to waste out." Destroying excess bud that failed testing or quality control often ends up being the lowest priority for weed producers, due to the burden of complying with these strict regulations. Garrison believes there are “hundreds of pounds” of wasted weed “just sitting in big black bags” on pot farms. This excess will never be sold, but still remains in the state's inventory because producers haven't officially destroyed it.
Even if thousands of pounds of weed are moldering away in trash bags, the state's pot industry is brainstorming new ways to use up the glut of excess pot. A large quantity of excess flower has been shipped to processors who will use the raw plant material to create vape cartridges, shatter, distillates, dabs, or other extracts. These products have a much longer shelf life than dried flower, ensuring that little of this pot overstock actually goes to waste.
Oregon lawmakers have thought of another way around the oversupply issue: passing a bill that allows the state to export its excess cannabis. For this new law to actually become a possibility, the federal government must allow interstate shipping of cannabis products, which is currently prohibited.
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