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

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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

  • CherryAnn1000

    Of course it’s going black. No one in their right mind who uses pot will buy it from anyone licensed with the state and have to pay all those taxes on the product. The black underground is alive and flourishing, and all those governments, from state to city, who were rubbing their hands with glee over all this additional revenue they could confiscate and waste are going to get a very rude awakening.

    • thevillageidiot

      Somebody at least has her head on. as it is legalized (not) I did not vote for it. and you are stating one of the reasons, Taxes.

    • Duncan20903

      Chgrry, while you make some compelling arguments I’m pretty sure you’re mistaken. But perhaps you could change my mind so I’d really like to discuss your arguments face to face. Can we meet to have a friendly debate about your assertionsover a glass of bathtub gin at your local Capone’s Speakeasy? Email me and we’ll set up a meet. I’ll even pick up the tab!

      • Paul Michael

        Major difference between a complex distillery, and simply letting a plant grow, Duncan… But given your typos, I’d guess you were drunk while posting, so that fact will fall on deaf ears.

    • MrBill

      Good point and good example of unintended consequences. I doubt it ever occurred to the legalize pot crowd that if you legalize it and then heavily regulate it, you’ll have just as big a black market as before, plus you’ll be undermining the law in states where it’s still illegal. I know it never occurred to me.

      Glad I didn’t support it (not that it matters).

      • Eric Blair

        I suspect that the legalize pot crowd is different than the heavily regulate it crowd.

        • Paul Michael

          The “legalize it” crowd were indeed warned how far their heads were up their hindquarters by the “decriminalize it” crowd… But they were too stupid to listen.

      • Bongstar420

        Yes..bootlegged moonshine. So much better. I’m definitely going to buy my alcohol from my hobbyist neighbor vs a certified vendor.

    • Bongstar420

      LOL…ya, those state officials are going to make so much money personally…way more than growers, retailers, and manufacturers do. Is there even a government job that exists paying much more than $350k per year?

  • thevillageidiot

    to Sen. Whitsett: a more constitutional president would recognize the tenth amendment of the constitution.
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor
    prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively,
    or to the people.
    so he does not even understand the constitution of the united states. why is he a senator of oregon?? oh yeah not enough tax money going to education. and he was a product.

  • Duncan20903

    It’s genuinely astounding that there are any people left who are gazing at the horizon expecting the imminent arrival of the Federal cavalry riding in to strike down State laws that re-legalize cannabis. Doesn’t anyone else ever wonder why the only cases filed in this controversy arguing Federal preemption have been filed by State and local authorities? We are talking about 18 years and 3 Presidential administrations which span the entire political horizon, left, right and center.

    The Feds have given their answer to Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska…there’s nothing that they can do about those laws. Yes, the Feds can enforce their laws using their resources. But Californians have seen that first hand. The Feds haven’t been able to shut down the CUA and it’s pushing two decades now.

    • Duncan20903

      City of Garden Grove v Felix Kha, 157 Cal. App. 4th 355; 68 Cal. Rptr. 3d 656 (2007)
      County of San Diego v San Diego NORML 165 Cal. App. 4th 798; 81 Cal. Rptr. 3d 461 (2008)
      Winters v. Willis, 235 Or App 615, 234 P3d 141 (2010)
      State of Arizona v Valerie Okun, Case No. 1 CA-CV 12-0094 (AZ Ct. App., Div. 1, Jan. 10, 2013)
      were all prosecuted using that theory, and none of the petitioners got a ruling in their favor. Not even in the local Courts which traditionally are likely to favor local authorities. None of the cases listed could find any Federal Court that had any interest in hearing their lame arguments.

      In John Ter Beek vs City of Wyoming MI (2014) the respondents did manage to get the local, elected Judge to back the attempt by the City of Wyoming to use Federal law as a ruse to get out of doing their job but the Michigan Court of Appeals promptly overturned and the Michigan Supreme Court made that ruling final.

      If people are going to act all self righteous about the law, then they should learn the law. The Federal government is not the boss of the States. The States are the boss of the Federal government.

      • Bongstar420

        They do have proper authority to regulate interstate commerce, though the detriment to society from drug use is more cultural than it is drug use per se (that makes the gener welfare for prohibition position a bit more tentative vs assumption of harm per se).

        But no. The Feds cannot enforce prohibition within states without “inferring” interstate commerce.

        • Duncan20903

          I was talking about preemption, not whether or not the Feds can enforce their laws using their resources and funding in States which have enacted medicinal cannabis patient protection or even the four which have implemented regulated re-legalization. They can do that.

          Preemption means that the State laws can be struck down, and it just isn’t going to happen. If you had read the opinions in the cases listed you would see that there just isn’t any question that the Feds can get State laws struck down. They can not.

          I wonder, are you aware that State and local authorities don’t have jurisdiction to enforce Federal law? Not only can’t they be forced to enforce Federal law, the State and local authorities can’t even volunteer to do so in States where the act is not a State level crime. See Gambino v United States, 275 U.S. 310 (1927) for details.

          Evasion of the Federal income tax is legal as far as the criminal codes of all 50 States is concerned. No one even suggests that there’s a conflict between State and Federal law there.

  • Nightflyer_2

    This is an inflammatory article based on pure speculation. Anyone who runs a business has to seriously consider if they are wiling to jeopardize their establishment and their liberty for a little cash. There are always narcs out there trying to convince dispensaries to make improper sales. If valid medical marijuana users are subverting their medications, law enforcement must hold those individuals responsible for their actions.

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  • stonerboy

    this is a good thing, though, as everyone knows dope is better than booze, so why not spread it around a little. I know it has helped me get through some tough times. I usually sell food I got with my foodstamp card and use that money to bribe my doctor into prescribing me some dope, which I then smoke half and sell half, and then have plenty of coin to go grocery shopping.
    Wake up you people…you can not ban stuff this good…people will always find a way…so you may as well make it easy…

    • MrBill

      Sure people will continue to use it regardless of whether it’s legal or not. But having it remain illegal will at least give us a means or limiting it.

      It’s similar to laws against speeding. You won’t catch everyone who speeds, but the overall effect is it keeps the majority of people driving at safer speeds.

      • Eric Blair

        Apple and Oranges bill. Laws against speeding are for the protection of everyone on the road. Laws against marijuana are not (it is still illegal to drive under the influence). If we are going to have laws against products in order to limit them, then cigarettes and alcohol should be much higher on the list than marijuana.

        How much money do you think we might save, by the way, in not putting pot smokers and growers in jail?

        • MrBill

          The speeding analogy was in regard to the claim that it’s pointless to ban pot because you won’t catch 100% of people using it. True enough, but just because bans don’t prevent everyone from using doesn’t mean that bans are useless. I still think keeping it somewhat illegal helps suppress use and that’s a good thing.

          I’d say maybe 1% of the prison population consists of people busted for possession only. Of those, I suspect most of them plead down to possession to avoid facing other charges. Very rarely do otherwise law-abiding people go to prison for nothing more than possession. Most of the time there’s more involved.

          • Eric Blair

            What are the effects of Marijuana that are so bad that we should ban it’s use by law in order to suppress use?

            I hope that you are at least in favor of banning cigarettes and alcohol as well. Especially alcohol.

          • MrBill

            Maybe this is purely anecdotal, but I feel like I’ve seen too many pot smokers who spend their lives going nowhere at light speed and are damn proud of it. Not that cigarettes and booze can’t take a toll as well, but not like this.

          • Eric Blair

            I would agree that your observation is purely anecdotal. Anything that is abused will cause issues. Also speaking anecdotally, I know people who smoke pot, but in small amounts. They seem to have their lives together and aren’t just sitting around — I truly believe that the stereotype is based upon a small number of people.

            Continuing to speak anecdotally, I was raised in my teen years by an abusive alcoholic. I wish my parent had smoked marijuana instead.

            The fact is, you never hear of rage induced abuse coming from pot smokers. How often do you think alcohol is a factor in domestic violence versus marijuana? I asked my wife, a social worker, and she is very aware of many occasions where alcohol is involved in a DV situation, but has never heard of a similar situation involving marijuana.

            Most people use alcohol responsibly (as I believe most people who smoke marijuana are responsible) — but, when either is used irresponsibly, alcohol has much more severe detrimental affects – from the personal health of the user, to violence against others. Alcohol abuse is a much great public health issue than marijuana abuse.

          • Bongstar420

            I wonder why the price of cannabis would be important other than the “need” to consume frequently

          • commonsense

            1/2 of all sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol.

          • Eric Blair

            Do you consider marijuana more detrimental to public and private health than alcohol? Are your reasons purely anecdotal, or do you have statistics or studies to back you up?

  • TheFrequentPoster

    If taxes are low enough, there’ll be no black market to speak of.

  • Bongstar420

    Thats because medical users don’t pay a working wage let alone a profit in OMMP.

  • Paul Michael

    Funny how the article says a constitutionally oriented conservative administration may attack state’s rights, when the constitution specifically prohibits the federal government from addressing anything not listed, marijuana included, then right after states how the current big government liberals have been doing just that… The same liberals that HATE the limits the constitution puts on the federal government…. Media propaganda attempting to influence future elections, anyone?