Here’s an interesting fact: Oregon doesn’t actually know how much medical marijuana is currently growing and processing in the state. We’re talking about regulated, licensed marijuana, too, not whatever might be growing illegally.
Managers of Oregon’s marijuana program admitted their lack of oversight in an internal review released late week. The problem stems from soft reporting by producers and an absence of site inspectors, which has driven opportunistic growers toward the more lucrative black market.
How egregious was this lapse in supervision? The internal review–conducted by the state’s health authority, which manages the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP)—details that for 20,000 medical marijuana grow sites in 2017, only 58 ever received an inspection.
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“Potentially erroneous reporting coupled with low reporting compliance makes it difficult to accurately track how much product is in the medical system. This limits OMMP’s ability to successfully identify and address potential diversion,” the report said.
Reports of Oregon’s black-market problem surfaced a few months back, as state operators were caught selling across the Oregon border. This was coupled with complaints from law enforcement that they had trouble identifying which grows were legal and illegal. The Deschutes county sheriff and district attorney aired their grievances back in February, going so far as to ask the health authority for a list of medical marijuana grow sites. But the agency refused, stating that it was illegal for such a list to exist.
It’s a catch-22 of sorts: Oregon medical marijuana growers are protected by law to have a level of confidentiality, but law enforcement needs a way to identify operations that abide by the law. As the report laid bare, the state’s medical marijuana program lacks any dependable tools to validate grow sites. Instead they’re relying only on outdated and inconsistent county databases.
Oregon recently began requiring medical-marijuana growers of more than a dozen plants to enter a comprehensive seed-to-sale tracking system run by Oregon’s recreational-marijuana regulatory agency. That agency, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, is adding around 20 staffers, including inspectors and data analysts, to handle the increased workload, liquor commission spokesman Mark Pettinger said.
The report specifically cited “inadequate funding and staffing resources to meet the demands of robust regulation,” as one of the significant roadblocks facing the industry. The internal review was ordered by health authority Director Patrick Allen.