WHEN THE Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) was tasked with handling Oregon’s adult use cannabis program—AKA the recreational weed sales that we have come to know and love—the news didn’t send massive throngs out dancing in the streets. To say that Oregonians have a complex relationship with the OLCC is an understatement.
Among the agency’s new, cannabis-related responsibilities? Issuing all the recreational licenses in the state—be they for dispensaries, growers, processors, wholesalers, labs that test cannabis and cannabis products, and the makers of edibles.
So how is that going? Not great, if you look at the numbers. As of August 23, here’s where we stand:
• Number of licenses that have been applied for, and the fees paid: 1,289.
• Number of licenses that have been issued: 195.
• Number of those 195 issued licenses that are for growers: 194.
• Number of wholesaler licenses that have been issued: 1.
• Number of dispensary, processor, or lab licenses that have been issued: 0.
• Number of additional licenses that have been submitted, but with unpaid fees: 770.
• Number of remaining licenses to be issued if everyone who applied gets approved: 1,864.
• Percentage of licenses applied and paid for that are currently unissued: 85 percent.
• Number of months the OLCC has had to issue licenses: more than 7.
“All right, all right, Poindexter,” you say. “Maybe stop killing my buzz with all your math numbers. I got my weed. Who cares?”
If you want to keep having your weed, you should care. Unless you are part of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), your ability to purchase cannabis is part of the early adult use sales program, which ends on December 31, 2016. All those chocolates, ice cream, vape pens, dabs, and buds of kind flower you love so much will no longer be available to you at your favorite dispensary unless it gets a recreational license from the OLCC by the end of the year. And no dispensary in Oregon has yet been issued one of those.
Okay. Let’s say someone sends the OLCC processing department a semi truck full of Red Bull and massive overtime is approved, and they get all those outstanding dispensary licenses issued. Problem solved! Right?
Nope. As the reported $25 million in taxes on cannabis sales attests, you’re not the only one who’s been enjoying Oregon’s bounty of weed products. Do you think that 194 growers are going to be able to provide you and everyone else in the state with enough flower? (How much do you think a single plant produces?) What about concentrates and edibles? Producing those uses a tremendous amount of flower and trim. And who is going to test these? (Lab tested, not smoked by jokers sporting backward “Official Oregon Weed Tester” baseball caps.)
Moving from the OMMP program to the adult use recreational program means more than just submitting paperwork. There are different packaging requirements, and product strength must be curtailed. That doesn’t just take time; it takes stacks and stacks of cash. One edible maker I know had to reduce her products’ strength from 150 mg per serving to the currently approved 15 mg for the recreational market. This means she has to make 10 times as many products. And that means paying people to make those edibles with some of those aforementioned stacks of cash.
If a business doesn’t get its license by December 31, it must return to selling solely to the OMMP market. Which is a rapidly shrinking marketplace, for myriad reasons.
The final result? A shortage of places to buy cannabis, not to mention a shortage of cannabis, edibles, and concentrates. Remember supply and demand from your high school economics class? With less cannabis available, prices will go—that’s right—up. Not to mention the difficulty that cannabis dispensaries will have keeping their doors open by selling only to OMMP patients.
There might be hope. It’s possible an extension could be granted before December 31. Despite this dire situation, the state doesn’t want to lose any of this massive new tax revenue stream. But the OLCC isn’t doing much in this process to endear themselves to the general public or the cannabis industry.