A growing population believes the state’s Medical Marijuana Program to be a channel for black market marijuana
The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) is headed for its demise. Recreational retail sales have increased substantially and there is a view that the program is a source for black market marijuana. This is leading to more growers and patients, who previously worked through the state’s medical marijuana card, to dump the program completely.
The number of patients registered through the program has dropped substantially. A year ago, there were 59,137, yet now there are only 34,892. This represents a 41% drop in less than 12 months. In Josephine County, the amount was slightly higher, falling almost 50% from 7,027 to 3,540.
Growers that have participated with the OMMP have been switching to retail, as well. Over the course of the past year, the number has fallen from 23,175 to 13,959 – a decrease of 40%.
Medical marijuana was first legalized in 1998. It allowed certain individuals to grow their own or to obtain it from someone who would grow it for them. In 2014, the state legalized recreational marijuana use and the tide has been changing ever since.
Medical marijuana cardholders were able to purchase their supply tax-free. However, the red tape associated with the registration process, and a hefty $200 registration fee, makes paying the taxes a better option.
According to Diana Calvert of the River City Retail dispensary, “I repeatedly hear from customers. They say, ‘I let my medical card expire. It’s too expensive to renew. I’ll just pay the taxes.'”
Additionally, a number of individuals who took advantage of the OMMP to obtain marijuana for recreational reasons, no longer have to maintain the ruse. They can legally purchase without the need of the marijuana card.
For growers, the state’s online medical marijuana reporting system, METRC, is too cumbersome and not worth the hassle. Oregon SunGrowers Guild President Pete Gendron explains, “The new reporting system is something people aren’t going to be able to adapt to. The training is inadequate. The tech support is also woefully inadequate. It takes a minimum of 10-12 hours to access basic functionality of the system. I don’t know a single person who is completely proficient. It’s not an easy system to use. You can’t really expect a 70-year-old to navigate it.”
The exodus will undoubtedly continue. There may be some who remain because of a larger necessity that makes the cost savings worthwhile, but the number of registered users will ultimately not produce the revenue to keep the system going.