Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about two Oregon legislative bills: one that had just been signed into law, and another that was imminent in passage. I looked at what these bills might mean for the medical and recreational communities, both the good and the bad.
A very small portion of the readership had a very big problem with one of my conclusions, which suggested that allowing medical growers to transfer up to 20 pounds into the recreational market would upend the industry, in a bad way. My hot take led to War and Peace-length responses in the comments section, a few rather ugly insults and accusations on social media, and one angry five-minute voicemail.
Although I’m missing the gene that makes me care about being cursed at by sad trolls on Facebook, I thought I should hear more from the other side. I don’t grow or retail cannabis in Oregon, so I sought input from those who do.
I initially phoned and texted John Sajo, Director of the Umpqua Cannabis Association, who left the aforementioned voicemail, and offered him half of this column to explain why he was so “offended” by what I had written. He never got back to me directly, but he did write a lengthy response in the comments section of the original article. Reasonable people can disagree, so please read his thoughts.
I also reached out to my friend—and subject of a former column—Jesse Peters, the CEO of Eco Firma Farms, which added a recreational grow operation earlier this year. (His medical and recreational grows can’t be co-located.) Peters is a no-bullshit former Marine who works 54 hours a week as a firefighter in addition to running Eco Firma, and has greater insight on the topic than I do.
What’s your viewpoint on what has become a rapidly polarized growing community?
PETERS: The majority of growers in Oregon are small businesses, with a handful that are big players funded by out-of-state money, but most are simply Oregonian business owners which happen to grow and sell cannabis. And medical and recreational users have both sunk tremendous money into their operations. Hell, most of us started as medical growers who begged and borrowed to participate in a recreational system that none of us are thrilled about. We are all worried about our livelihoods, and that’s fair.
What do you think about recent legislation that would allow for medical growers to sell 20 pounds into the recreational market through wholesalers and processors?
I don’t want medical growers to be able to sell just 20 pounds. I want them to be able to sell unlimited amounts, directly to dispensaries. I just want that dispensary to only be allowed to sell that medical flower to medical patients. Patients need access, but medical and recreational need to stay in their respective lanes to keep the playing field fair.
As far as medical growers being burdened by high fees, that’s true, but recreational growers are burdened by additional fees, such as high security system costs. I still have a medical grow, by the way, with every last gram given away at no charge, and that operation is losing money each and every month. I operate that grow at a loss.
Everyone is attacking each other, when our real issues rest with the state and not each other. We all have more in common than we do in opposition. That said, while it’s difficult to run both a medical and recreational farm, I still also have a job, and a schedule like this doesn’t afford me the opportunity to attack people on Facebook 48 times a day. This leaves me curious: For a very few, is this more about lifestyle and livelihood than it truly is about patients and access?
What do you see as a solution?
I’d love to see the state subsidize medical growers with a stipend, such as what you would find on an insurance plan. Cannabis is medicine, and we should be doing more to help patients while seeking to support medical growers.
Our shared issue is massive oversupply. We need to find a way to work together, and to put pressure on the state to help make both systems fair for patients and consumers.