Up to 75% of Oregon medical marijuana goes to black market

marijuana leaf_thb

by NW Spotlight

Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian wrote an article on Friday that reported the chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission estimates “as much as 75 percent of the medical marijuana in the state winds up going to the black market.” The OLCC will be responsible for regulating recreational marijuana sales which will soon be legal in Oregon as a result of the passage of Measure 91 last year. Medical marijuana has been legal in Oregon for 16 years since the passage of Measure 67 in 1998.

In the Oregonian article Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) says “It’s no secret that medical marijuana [from Oregon] is appearing all over the U.S. in the illegal market.”

Although legalized at the state level in several states now, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Sen. Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) noted back in December that Oregon’s “recreational and medicinal use of marijuana are in direct conflict with the Controlled Substances Act that was enacted by Congress in 1970.” At the federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug along with drugs like heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs are “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Anyone growing, selling or possessing marijuana is still committing a federal crime. The federal government can enforce federal laws regarding marijuana any time they choose to.

Sen. Whitsett wrote on the conflict that now exists between federal law and some states’ marijuana laws:

“The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) outlined how the current administration intends to address the conflicting laws in this memorandum that was issued in August of 2013.

In the memo, the DOJ spells out that it expects the states that legalize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana to establish strict regulatory schemes.

These strategies must be tough in practice, not just on paper. They must include strong and adequately funded, state-based law enforcement. The Memorandum identifies eight overarching federal interests that must be protected:”

One of those eight overarching federal interests (enforcement priorities) that must be protected is:

“Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states,” which Sen. Whitsett paraphrased as “2. The states must actively counteract any transfer of marijuana, or marijuana products, across state lines.”

Given the statement by Sen. Burdick that “It’s no secret that medical marijuana [from Oregon] is appearing all over the U.S. in the illegal market,” and the estimate by the OLCC chair that of as much as 75% of medical marijuana is ending up in the black market, it would seem that Oregon is at increased risk of federal investigation and prosecution by the current administration of President Obama.

And as Sen. Whitsett pointed out “A more conservative and more constitutionally oriented future President may decide to fully enforce the regulatory authority of the Controlled Substance Act.”

A greater risk for Oregon, though, is that the August 2013 DOJ memorandum notes that if states who have legalized marijuana at the state level don’t prevent the harms like selling across state lines, the federal government may seek to challenge “the [state’s] regulatory structure itself” – in other words the feds may challenge Oregon’s legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.

excerpt from Aug 2013 U.S. DOJ memorandum

excerpt from Aug 2013 U.S. DOJ memorandum