Last week the U.S. Attorney for the state of Oregon, Billy Williams, made a speech in front of a crowd that included members of law enforcement, the cannabis community and Oregon Governor Kate Brown, in which indicated his displeasure at the thought of excessive marijuana escaping the state and being sold elsewhere via the black market.
Williams said that Oregon has an “identifiable and formidable overproduction and diversion problem.”
“That is the fact,” he added. “And my responsibility is to work with our state partners to do something about it.”
As to what his office plans on doing in regards to state-legal marijuana businesses, Williams said he wanted to gather more data before making a decision on courses of action. Governor Kate Brown did say, however, that Williams has assured her staff that “lawful Oregon businesses” are “not targets of law enforcement.”
While much has been made about U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding the famous “Cole Memo,” even under the protection of that document, excessive legal supply pouring out of the state and into the black market of other states could still trigger a crackdown by prosecutors and give them reason to go after the state-legal cannabis industry.
U.S. Attorney Williams has said he is awaiting a final version of an Oregon State Police report on the issue of black market diversion before making a decision about how best to combat it.
But in the end, there is little law enforcement can do about legal marijuana leaving Oregon for sale elsewhere. Since legal marijuana bought in Oregon can fetch a much higher price on the black market in another state, there is a huge incentive for illegal dealers to transport it.
The only way to reduce that incentive – since prohibition has been shown not to work – is for other states to legalize adult use marijuana as well, which will drop the price of cannabis in those states and make them less of a target for illegal dealers.
But that’s not up to lawmakers and voters in Oregon; they have done their job by legalizing adult use sales and are seeing falling prices for cannabis as a result. Until those in other states realize the error of their ways and take a similar path, they will continue to attract black market dealers who are coming for the big profits that prohibition-inflated prices bring.