Sucking the Air Out of the Room

By Jenifer Valley of Happy Valley, Oregon. Jenifer is a stage 4 cancer survivor and cannabis clinician.

I would like to see marijuana treated more like wine or beer. I support regulation, but I don't want to see regulations imposed on marijuana users that we don't see with other products that adults use that are demonstrably more dangerous. I want the market to be open to innovation and to a wide variety of business models. I do not want to see areas that don't allow legal businesses because they are fostering illegal businesses by doing so. I want to see standards that apply to everyone, not special rules just for marijuana.

It is important to remember that Oregon is one of the top 10 marijuana producing States, but has traditionally not been an export State according to Drug Availability Steering Committee Reports (DASC) dating back 20 years or more. We consume what we produce. Oregon, along with California, was the first State to experience multi-thousand plant plots known as mega-grows in our National forests. These mega-grows were put in place by Mexican cartels as well as several other foreign factions, according to the HIDTA reports. We are talking about a multi-billion dollar industry, based on the fact that DASC and HIDTA assume they confiscate between 10%-25% of the crop and confiscation rates have been substantial since 2006. In order to wipe out this illicit market, we must allow the legal market to feed the market. If you average out the harvest for the last 6 years of available data, Oregon has averaged 171,924.667 plants per year confiscated (remember, that is 10%-25% of the crop according to best estimates by DASC & HIDTA) which means we have to produce at least, bare minimum 4 times that amount to even begin to meet the need and eliminate the illicit market.

However, we must also consider that we will be creating an enormous tourist draw. Vale, Colorado has found that 90% of its marijuana revenues come from tourists, rather than local consumers. Oregon needs to emulate their example and offer opportunities for tourists to come and enjoy our food, wine, beer, cannabis and natural beauty.

Oregon currently has the lowest prices on cannabis, and we need to keep that in place by having clear, concise streamlined regulations that allow business to flourish. Making the market too difficult to enter supports the illicit market and does not support job creation on the local level. We want small businesses and start-ups to be able to enter the playing field and create family businesses much like our beer and wine industry has. We also have to recognize that there is a lot of out of State investment pouring in and it is on very large levels. The market needs to have the flexibility to explore many different models.

The recreational market must not consider the medical market competition. The two are not the same. We do not tax medicine. We should expect to see an increase in enrollment in the OMMP. Now that there is a legal medical market, patients are more willing to try this medicine, and doctors are more willing to sign applications. Doctors have had time to see that medical marijuana addresses the three primary drivers of Healthcare costs (Pain management, chronic disease management, and end-of-life care) and improves outcomes. Doctors are also finding that medical marijuana does a better job than dangerous pharmaceuticals and is safe; it doesn't cause stroke, heart attack, or death which reduces their medical liability. It reduces patients' doctor visits, hospital visits and prescription drug use, mostly because it improves patient outcomes.

Both markets should consider the black market to be competition, and the reality is that moratoriums and high taxes designed to keep legal commerce out, will serve to protect and preserve existing illegal commerce. In Washington, we saw the black market double their prices and still under cut the legal market enough to cause a glut of legal marijuana that people won't buy because the established black market supplies them just like it always has except that the price went up. Since it is so much cheaper than the legal alternative, people will go back to their old dealer rather than pay the ridiculously inflated prices leveraged into place by those who don't want prohibition to end. They can scream all day that they are protecting their community, but all they are really protecting is the black market they claim to hate. Methinks they doth protest too much. The reality is the only way to shut the back door is to open the front door: a secret black market dealer will never be able to compete with a legal market that isn't priced out of affordability.

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