Recreational cannabis was approved in Oregon in 2014, with legal sales beginning in October 2015. Commercial grow licenses were deliberately made easy to acquire in the hope that black market growers would be brought into the legal mainstream. The result has been a glut of cannabis in the state—one estimate says there is a 6.5 year supply. That’s good news for consumers, who pay about 2/3 what we do in Massachusetts, but has led to much of the surplus product moving into the black market. Laws aimed at restricting supply and giving the Governor the power to enter into agreements with other states to purchase Oregon’s excess cannabis were recently passed.
With the state awash in cheap, local cannabis, there may be less of a demand for home grow cultivation, although fears of pesticides and herbicides used by big growers could drive more consumers to growing organic cannabis themselves.
Weed is not only cheaper, it’s easier to find in Oregon—there are more than 550 licensed dispensaries in the state, and since 2017, delivery has been legal as well. With long-standing progressive attitudes towards cannabis, and easy access to relatively inexpensive weed, consumption rates are the highest in the country. Following national trends, consumption has increased significantly among adults, since legalization. While all other states have seen a decrease in teen consumption since legalization, Oregon has seen a slight increase.
Pairing legal cannabis with Oregon’s reputation for outdoor adventure has led to a growth in cannabis-related tourism businesses.
With a reputation for high-quality, locally produced beer and wine, some feel that small-batch cannabis may be the latest craft industry to sweep the state. One of the leaders in this, a dispensary called Oregon’s finest “…prides itself on delivering award-winning, small-batch, craft cannabis directly from farm-to-flame.”
Cannabis Laws, Oregon vs. Massachusetts
Laws governing home cultivation and personal possession in Oregon and Massachusetts are very similar:
|In-Home cannabis cultivation||4 plants||6-12 plants*|
|In-Home cannabis possession||8oz.||10 oz.|
|Personal cannabis possession outside the home||1oz.||1 oz.|
|Personal extract possession at home||1oz.||5 g.|
*Each 21 year-old in a household, up to two may have 6 plants
Oregon is even less generous towards home grow cultivation than California or Colorado—allowing residents to grow only four plants, regardless of the number of adults in the household; laws governing home grow cultivation in Massachusetts allow up to twelve plants.
Recent Legal Changes
Attempts to legalize cannabis lounges, proposed in Oregon Senate bill 639, failed to pass this spring. A ballot initiative may be introduced for the 2020 elections.
Legalization in Oregon included relatively easy licensing for cannabis growers. The result has been a glut of legal cannabis. The Oregon Senate and House passed two laws, signed by the Governor this spring, that will help restrict supply through tighter licensing and reduce the surplus by giving the Governor the power to enter into agreements with other states for export and import of cannabis and cannabis products.
Cannabis tax revenue exceeded $100mm in the year ending June 30th, up 24% from fiscal year 2018. Estimates for the next two years expect a 29% increase.
The tax rate on cannabis is 17% in Oregon, equal to the combined 10.75% excise tax and 6.25% sales tax in Massachusetts.
Trends in Consumption
A national survey on drug use reports the highest cannabis usage in the country is in Oregon, with 26.5% of the adult population consuming cannabis in the past year. There are nearly 600 licensed dispensaries in Oregon. Adult consumption increased in the first two years after legalization, with current users increasing from 11% in 2014 to 19% in 2017—this parallels a national trend, regardless of legalization. While use is highest among men, and those under 30, women and older groups showed significant increases in consumption rates.
According KLCC, an NPR station in Oregon, the state has experienced a slight increase in teen cannabis consumption since legalization in late 2015. This is counter to the trend in other states, where legalization led to a decline in teen use. Prevalence of legal pot seemed to have more impact on current teen consumers, than those who had never tried it. “Surveys found that that legalization did not impact teenagers who were first time users” said KLCC. “But teens that had already tried marijuana before legalization and were using, were using more frequently after legalization.”
While legalization is only four years old, Oregonian businesses are learning from their experience and pioneering new approaches to the field, including: a more scientific approach to growing weed, to create consistent doses; an open-sourced approach to cannabis products, designed to encourage small businesses over monopolies; an app to determine THC impairment; and carbon-neutral approach to cannabis farming.
The whole Pacific Northwest—from British Columbia to the California border—is becoming a hot bed of cannabis entrepreneurs. To learn more about the kinds of businesses they’re staring read this piece from Willamette Week: “Eight Portlanders Shaping the Future of Cannabis in Oregon—and Possibly the World”.
Like Colorado, cannabis tourism is a budding industry in the state, with cannabis tours especially popular—there are more than five different cannabis tours of Portland alone.
And like all the western states that have legalized recreational cannabis, ganja yoga and cannabis infused massage are booming in Oregon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are cannabis laws different in Oregon from those in Massachusetts?
Regulations around personal home grow and possession are similar in both states. Home delivery is legal.
Is it easier or harder to purchase cannabis in Oregon?
Colorado made recreational dispensary permitting easier, so there were 180+ stores open in the first six months. After five years, that’s expanded to over 500.
Has legalization changed cannabis consumption in Oregon?
Consumption by teens was declining f=before legalization and has been flat since, while consumption by adults, which was growing before, has continued to grow. These trends are correlated with cannabis legalization, but legalization may not have caused them.
What new ideas are coming out of Oregon that we can expect here in the future?
As the first state to legalize recreational cannabis, it benefited from a boom in cannabis tourism. There are many cannabis friendly events and places to stay.
Alternative health practitioners, such as massage therapists, yoga instructors, and wellness coaches, are embracing cannabis, and use it in their practices.
There are a host of local edible producers; some have done so well they are expanding to other cannabis-legal states.