Forest Cannabis Farms Down in Oregon, Washington Post-Legalization

Much ire has been expressed by licensed California cannabis cultivators and dispensaries at the unfair black market competition by those who don’t pay state fees and taxes and whose product isn’t thoroughly vetted. Orange County marijuana lawyers understand the glut of illegal marijuana has undermined the roll-out of recreational marijuana in communities from Los Angeles to San Francisco.California marijuana farming attorney

Similar problems have been reported not just here but in other liberalized state marijuana statutes appear to have had little impact on black market sales. So far, 10 states including California have legalized marijuana for recreational sales.

Not so in Oregon and Washington, a new study suggests, indicating that the way states have written their recreational marijuana laws may play a big role. Since Washington and Oregon legalized recreational marijuana (in 2012 and 2014, respectively) there has actually been a decline in the wealth of marijuana farms throughout the state’s national forests, resulting in reduced adverse ecological impact.

European scholars in an analysis published recently in the journal Ecological Economics, identified a number of health and economic upsides to Oregon and Washington marijuana policy, something California legislators may want to note.

Why WA and OR Have Fewer Illicit Pot Grows Since Going Legal

The data showed decidedly fewer grow sites discovered in national forests since the two states implemented voter-approved recreational marijuana laws.

Researchers specifically analyzed national forest growth because these often resulted in the most substantial and widespread environmental impacts – including displacement of native plants, pollution from fertilizers and pesticides and so-called “wildlife poaching.”

Los Angeles marijuana lawyers also know that when grow sites are established on public land, no matter how seemingly remote, it poses a risk to members of the public who happen to chance upon it. Organized criminal gangs or other operations that establish and monitor such sites may feel they have little to lose by defending it with dangerous force.

At the time Oregon and Washington’s recreational marijuana laws passed, federal forestry data showed nearly 250 illegal marijuana grow sites uncovered between 2004 and 2017 throughout the Northwest Pacific region. Some of the larger illicit cannabis grow sites on these lands had upwards of 100,000 plants each.

After Washington updated its law, law enforcement and park rangers went from discovering an average of 9.2 illicit cannabis farms a year to 1.6 annually. In Oregon, it dropped from 13-a-year to 3.67.

But was it really the recreational laws that made the difference? Researchers opine it wasn’t necessarily the fact that marijuana was made legal that spurred big change. It was more likely a combination of both states having higher-than-average law enforcement officers per capita, plus the fact that illegal cannabis no longer made growers that much more money than legal cannabis. In other words, the risk wasn’t worth the reward.

The same has not held true for California, where many Los Angeles marijuana dispensary lawyers blame the high rate of taxation as a key motivator for consumers to dip into the illegal market – even when the product is less safe and purchasing it is still potentially a legal risk for them too.

Another possible factor to be analyzed by policymakers is that of prohibiting cannabis cultivation for recreational use. Oregon allows it, but Washington strictly outlaws it. Where it’s not allowed on one’s own property people may be more include to seek a sparse are of public lands to reduce detection and penalties.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Illegal Marijuana Grows In Pacific Northwest Declined After Legalization, Study Finds, May 13, 2019, By Kimberly Lawson, Marijuana Moment

More Blog Entries:

California Industrial Hemp Farming: What to Know to Do It Legal, May 9, 2019, California Marijuana Farming Attorney Blog