Oregon could begin exporting cannabis to other states with legal pot by 2021 under a proposal being developed by state legislators and a cannabis industry trade group. Adam Smith, the executive director and founder of the Craft Cannabis Alliance, hopes to have a bill to put before lawmakers in the new year. He believes that other states with legal cannabis represent a potential new opportunity for Oregon growers.
“There are plenty of markets that would be thrilled to have world-class cannabis,” Smith said. “But prohibition keeps us from sending it into those markets.”
Under state law, cannabis grown in Oregon must remain in the state’s regulated marketplace. But a glut of legal pot in Oregon has caused prices to plummet, hurting small growers and igniting fears that the oversupply would enter the black market. With the legislation being drafted, the governor would be able to create agreements with other states with legal cannabis to import from Oregon.
Smith says that allowing cannabis growers to export would help local independent cultivators.
“When we do get to export, is there any ownership here, are we building wealth here, or are we just shipping money out-of-state?” Smith said. “If you got to export tomorrow, and folks suddenly could get a fair price for their product, you’d still have a bunch of outside companies here, but you would have a relatively healthy ecosystem.”
Lawmaker Supports Export Market
In 2017, state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a Democrat from Eugene, introduced a bill that would have allowed transfers of cannabis between adjacent states. Although that bill was not successful, Prozanski plans to introduce a similar measure this legislative session and said he would consider including provisions from the Craft Cannabis Alliance proposal.
“I’m very pleased to look at this,” Prozanski said. “But I guess what I want to make certain is we don’t push ourselves into a situation where the perfect becomes the obstacle of getting anything on the books for what will be more permissible under current interpretations by the feds.”
Prozanski added that he wanted the state to be ready to be a major cannabis exporter if the federal government eventually ends national marijuana prohibition.
“I don’t want us to be flat-footed and [have] everyone running out at the same time trying to create something,” Prozanski said.
Haters Gonna Hate
Kevin Sabet, the president of the anti-cannabis group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, predicts that growers won’t be able to find a market for their harvest.
“I can’t imagine any state would agree to do this with Oregon,” said Sabet. “It looks like a desperate attempt to tackle the out-of-control black market production that has happened in Oregon since legalization. The state should be focusing on how to reduce overall demand and supply.”
However, Beau Whitney, a senior economist with New Frontier Data the Washington, D.C. cannabis think tank, said opening the export market “would either slow or stop the price declines, because there wouldn’t be any more excess.”
That could improve the legal cannabis market overall.
“It would create more of a market in which quality and branding and other things would come into play more so than just pure price,” Whitney said.