AS WE wrap up 2016—a year that, for many, has been filled with a distressing degree of loss, fear, and historical division—let’s take a look back at these past 12 months, and specifically what has happened with cannabis. (Hopefully you weren’t expecting a wrap-up about sportsball.)
Oregon hit its one-year anniversary for recreational cannabis (AKA adult use) on July 1. It passed with little fanfare, save for a few people who said to no one in particular, “Oh yeah... It has been a year since we could grow and buy cannabis legally. Cool.” Despite the prohibitionists’ warnings that our state would become a horror show, we emerged intact.
POT PARTY POOPER
Both the city of Portland and the OLCC made some changes that sent a chill throughout cannabis-event-planner circles. The city now prohibits any event where cannabis is given away, sampled, or consumed if there is any type of admission charged, or any form of “consideration”—meaning donations, membership cards, etc. They now need to be absolutely free to each and every attendee. (Unfortunately, all of the venue costs, permit fees, and equipment rentals that go into putting on an event do not have similar requirements.) The OLCC ratcheted up this matter in the spring by announcing that any grower who activated a recreational producers license was forbidden from sharing a single gram of their product with the public, requiring it all be moved and taxed through the state dispensary system. Which is exactly how they treat beer, wine, spirits, and hard cider, and why you can no longer sample any of those products unless you pay money for them. Hey, wait a minute...
EDIBLES, CONCENTRATES, AND TOPICALS, OH MY
Starting in June, adults 21 and over could begin to purchase cannabis products such as topicals, edibles, and concentrates that were previously only available to OMMP cardholders. Adult-use versions of these items were required to have lower THC content (15 mgs of THC for recreational edibles vs. however-much-you-think-you-can-handle-there-sky-captain in the OMMP medical versions). For the larger framed and more experienced inner-astronauts among us, this meant having to double down on our purchases to obtain the desired effect. The pain of this added expense was somewhat muted by having access to a virtual 7-Eleven snack rack of edible products: ice cream, pretzels, sodas, nuts, and more types of candies than you could count. (Clothing sizes increased.)
TESTING POT AND PATIENCE
However, access to all those non-flower cannabis items hit a wall, the size of which would give Trump a teeny tiny hard-on. Prior to October 1, cannabis-testing labs were plentiful, fees were affordable, and the turnaround was fast. Then Oregon’s new testing regulations went into effect, reducing the number of newly licensed labs to less than 10 as of this writing, raising prices exponentially, and causing a bottleneck for testing that resulted in a severe shortage of products on dispensary shelves and cannabis companies laying off staff—in some cases shutting down completely. That’s not to mention forcing those who actually depend upon these products for relief from myriad ailments to go without. (I don’t have space to go into the new packaging rules fiasco, but those changes had a major negative financial impact as well.)
I LIKE MONEY
In January, the state began collecting 25 percent on all recreational sales. People made good use of this access to new products, and tax revenue for the state hit just over $54.5 million as of November 30. In October, as new shops opened or switched from medical to recreational/adult-use, taxes dropped to 17 percent (although Portland will start imposing an additional 3 percent on January 1, 2017, making your new tax on toking 20 percent).
PUFF, PUFF, PANIC
Then came the November rain of tears with election results. States with legalized weed panicked that the incoming administration might dismantle the Cole Memorandum, the sole federal document allowing states to operate their adult-use programs. The incoming cabinet nominees so far do not seem to be cannabis-friendly, nor sincere in their declarations of respect for states’ rights. Ruh-roh.
So consume and contemplate this year with those you love, and be grateful for what we currently have here in Oregon. And thanks for reading another year of this column.