Oregon has been home to legendary cannabis growers for years. Now, after two and half years of doling out licenses for recreational weed cultivation, Oregon growers are sitting on a 1 million pound surplus. And since marijuana is still federally prohibited and cannot legally be shipped out of state, all of the herb goes into storage until the market can absorb it.
Oregon has a rich history of cannabis cultivation, especially in the southern part of the state, which sits at the top of the United States’ “cannabis bread basket” in what’s known as the Emerald Triangle. Most of Oregon’s growers are concentrated in Multnomah, Jackson, Lane, and Clackamas Counties respectively.
Oregon officials began granting licenses to marijuana growers in January of 2016 with minimal barriers to entry, hoping to entice black market growers to convert to the regulated market, which they did. June 5th was the applicant cutoff deadline.
According to the latest data from The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), there are currently 1,009 active licensed growers in the state. Of the growers that have applied, there are still 1,012 that have not been approved.
Oregon has six types of marijuana business licenses and cannabis farmers hold a majority of them. Including unapproved applicants, there are 2,021 producers registered with the OLCC. The category with the next highest amount of registered applicants is retail licenses coming in at 775.
There’s no shortage of workforce. There are currently 48,392 marijuana workers registered in the state, but system records show that there are still over 17,000 worker applicants that haven’t paid the $100 permit fee, and nearly another 2,000 applications are still being processed.
Adjustments Being Made
When farmers were growing their crop in early 2017, cannabis prices were at about $1,400 per pound. But as harvest arrived, fresh flower flooded the market, and prices dropped fast. Some big farms and grow ops were able to integrate vertically and form bonds with wholesalers and dispensaries early on. But a large percentage of growers have felt a big impact from the dramatic fluctuation in the market.
Many of Oregon’s cannabis farmers are now considering getting out of the business, cutting back production, selling clones, or switching to hemp.
For example, since being licensed, Ashland Productions has produced more than 5,000 pounds of cannabis for Oregon’s recreational market. And, like many of Oregon’s rec growers, they are still sitting on plenty of stock from last fall’s harvest. Now the company has pivoted to provide hemp cultivation services for a client who plans to grow some 40,000 plants, with plans to process the flowers to make CBD oil.
It’s not over yet for Oregon’s cannabis industry, but how low prices can go still remains uncertain. Growers must remain adaptive to the market in order to survive long enough for the supply to decrease.
The OLCC is supposed to review the state’s oversupply crisis over the next year and present a report to the Senate for further policy consideration.
Aaron Matthew is a cannabis writer, digital nomad, independent musician, and now a regular contributor to Growbay.com.