As 2018 draws to a close, let's look back on the year's big stories, assess where the cannabis industry stands—both in Oregon and on a national scale—and what we might expect from weed in the new year.
In January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, which had offered states a semblance of protection from federal intervention regarding cannabis programs. Failing to recognize one of the country's only growth industries, Sessions continued to act like a pathetic little clown at every turn. Trump fired his cracker ass in November. He's currently awaiting a fast-track E-ZPass for eternal damnation.
Cocaine Mitch was successful in getting his hemp decriminalization measure attached to the Farm Bill, a major step for CBD and other hemp-derived products. It seems likely that the bill will pass this month, which has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs, with CBD gaining popularity across the country.
In August, extremely successful Colorado dispensary chain Sweet Leaf, which had over 25 stores and was ringing up sales of more than $5 million per month, watched its empire crumble when authorities charged them with "looping," a practice of selling multiple times to a single individual within 24 hours, allowing them to exceed possession limits. On November 29, two former managers were sentenced to 30 days in jail as part of a plea deal to assist ongoing state and federal investigations. They were the first to be sentenced, although Sweet Leaf's three owners are under an ongoing investigation, and have already paid a collective $2 million in penalties and back taxes, in addition to banishment from working in the Colorado cannabis industry for 15 years.
Ten states and the District of Columbia currently have recreational cannabis programs, and 33 states have medical ones. This rapid growth shows no sign of abatement. Steven Hawkins, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, thinks that 2020 is going to be a remarkable high-water mark, with 15 states potentially in the running to pass recreational programs. Hawkins believes those include New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Delaware, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Connecticut, states that are buoyed by a desire for jobs and tax revenue. With a record 66 percent of Americans now supporting cannabis legalization according to an October Gallup poll, the outlook is favorable to seeing close to half the nation's states with recreational programs in place in the short-term future.
The True North, strong and free, became the first G7 country to pass a nationwide recreational cannabis program this year, joining Uruguay in that global distinction. Analysts believe Canada will see sales of 4.34 billion Canadian dollars in 2019. That number may need adjustment, as Canada's initial weeks of sales surpassed estimates, which was a contributing factor to some provinces facing shortages so severe they were forced to reduce the number days they stayed open, and in some cases they temporarily shut down altogether. But supplies are being quickly replenished, and Tim Hortons donut sales are way up.
The hard-working Oregonians who grow, process, and sell you cannabis are facing some intensely challenging times, with prices falling an estimated 50 percent or more at the wholesale level. Oregon's overabundance of weed sounds like a dream, but it's become a nightmare, with wide-reaching impacts. Oversupply has garnered an increasingly strident attitude of oversight and enforcement.
In June, the state put a temporary hold on processing any new grower license applications, and between September and October, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission performed first-time statewide inspections of outdoor recreational growers, in an effort to stem diversion. It resulted in more than 40 grower licenses now in jeopardy of being rescinded due to numerous violations. Winners include consumers and the state. Although retail prices have dropped as low as $40 an ounce, overall sales are like you after scarfing a mystery edible—way higher than expected. 2018 sales are expected to top $543 million, a 29 percent increase that well outperformed analysts' predictions.