Officials in Oregon held a summit meeting today regarding the “formidable problem with marijuana production that winds up on the black market.” The summit was organized by Oregon’s top federal prosecutor, US Attorney Billy Williams.
Black Market Marijuana Summit Addresses What’s Believed to Be a Big Problem
“Here’s what I know about the landscape here in Oregon,” said Williams, “and that is we have and identifiable and formidable marijuana overproduction and diversion problem. And make no mistake about it, we’re going to do something about it.”
According to Williams, law enforcement in 16 other states have reported seizing cannabis from Oregon. Postal agents have intercepted more than 2,600 pounds of weed in packages leaving the state. Law enforcement officials also report to seizing over $1.2 million in associated cash.
The meeting was comprised of representatives from 14 other states, the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Forest Service, US Customs and Border Protection, and the FBI. There were 9 US attorneys from other states that attended the meeting in person, representing Colorado, California, Washington, Nevada, and Idaho.
Williams believes the black market is something that needs to be focused on. He expressed the need for a “bottom-line answer” in regard to how much excess cannabis is being produced in Oregon, as well as how much is being trafficked to other states where marijuana remains illegal.
He says that black market marijuana surplus attracts criminal networks, drug violence, and money laundering. Williams also spoke of the environmental damage incurred due to pesticides, as well as the diminishment of water supplies in rural communities.
Is Legal Weed Really Fueling the Black Market Activity in Oregon?
While the black market in Oregon (and other states where cannabis is legal) is something to be concerned about, many believe its difficult to say if legalizing recreational weed is fueling black market sales. After all, people in Oregon have been growing weed for decades.
Leland Berger, an attorney who focuses on cannabis cases said, “When I moved to Oregon in 1979, cannabis was a billion-dollar crop then, so the notion that this is somehow caused by legalization or by the medical program is something that’s misplaced. When it’s intercepted out of state it’s easier to document where it came from, but I’m a little disappointed that it’s viewed as a new and huge problem.”
Balancing State and Federal Marijuana Laws
Darwin Roberts is a former federal prosecutor in Seattle who understands Williams concerns about black market activity but believes the Justice Department is in a challenging position.
If state marijuana programs are shut down, all that legal cannabis will be driven straight into the black market. There’s A LOT of legal weed out there, and if it ends up on the black market, neither state or federal authorities have the resources to deal with it.
Anthony Taylor is the president of Compassionate Oregon, a company that supports medical cannabis patients. He believes the summit fueled a “discussion that needs to happen.”
“It’s a brand-new industry operating legally under state law and illegally under federal law…and that’s just hard to balance. That’s one of the purposes of this summit. Let’s talk about it.”
Williams, who has “significant concerns about the state’s current regulatory framework.” He said that the black market marijuana summit and the state’s response to his concerns would “inform our federal enforcement strategy.”
How exactly Williams plans to eradicate the black market remains yet to be seen.