A Year in Review, Cannabis Edition | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

A Year in Review, Cannabis Edition

A look back at Oregon and U.S. marijuana happenings

Somehow, we've made it through another year, and for many the sands falling through the hourglass were made brighter, calmer and overall better with the use of cannabis. But if that Critical Haze makes recalling 2022's news stories about cannabis, well, hazy, I've rounded them up. Don't thank me, but do drop off cannabis to me, care of the Source Weekly.

A Year in Review, Cannabis Edition

Canna Crime: Sadly, Oregon and other states with regulated cannabis continue to see an increasing number of violent robberies at dispensaries. The dozen dispensaries robbed at gunpoint in Oregon during the first six months of the year was higher than the same period of 2021 and 2020. In March, Washington state's Liquor and Cannabis board announced that within a four-day period, at least three people had died during robberies at three cannabis dispensaries.

While some may attribute this to an overall increase in crime in some U.S. cities, the underlying problem is that dispensaries have stacks of cash onsite most days. Federal laws make banks unwilling to do business with the industry, making dispensary sales cash only. (Although more dispensaries are offering an added fee option of paying with a debit card.)

The year 2022 again saw legislative efforts to reform cannabis banking laws, which would reduce crime and the money handling costs for dispensaries. The SAFE Banking Act passed the house and now awaits Senate approval, but most of its adamant supporters say they don't expect it will pass.

A New Low: Bad news for producers, but good news for consumers, were 2022's plummeting pot prices. Another year of overproduction led to historically low wholesale rates, with the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission reporting the November 2022 median cost of a wholesale pound was $599, dropping from January's price of $897.

There are still numerous $250-275 ounces to be found at dispensaries, but $100 (and lower) ounces are showing up more frequently. (I tried some $30 per ounce flower this summer, but with a harvest date of nearly a year prior, found the effects thick and muted.)

Even with lower prices, Oregon sales continued declining after a pandemic-assisted bump. Paired with consumers purchasing from the thriving non-regulated marketplace, in 2022 the industry as a whole suffered major losses and layoffs.

Legalization Grows: The midterm elections resulted in Maryland and Missouri legalizing Adult Use cannabis, resulting in 21 states which now have such a program. Nearly a dozen other states tried but failed to establish regulated cannabis programs, but organizers believe 2024 will see more states go green.

Efforts to legalize at the federal level once again fell short, and the Republican-controlled House seems unlikely to make that a legislative priority anytime soon. The 2022 Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment Expungement Act (MORE) and The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) made progress but didn't/won't make it to Biden's desk.

Biden has always been more enthusiastic about trains than Trainwreck, but he did two notable things in 2022.

In October, he issued a Presidential Proclamation which "pardons federal convictions for simple marijuana possession offenses." Mind you, it applies solely to federal convictions, and not to convictions under state or local law, or "conspiracy, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, and other charges involving marijuana." That unfairly excludes a number of people living in cages, or with the burden of a prior cannabis conviction, but it's progress.

Biden did urge states to follow suit, and most importantly requested a review of the Schedule 1 classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.

The bigger story is Biden's historical signing of the "Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act" on Dec. 2, 2022. (S/O to Oregon's own Rep. Earl Blumenauer for his work on this. Respect.)

It's a boon for cannabis researchers, allowing schools and private companies to apply for DEA licenses to grow their own cannabis for research. The year 2022 saw the issuance of only the seventh DEA grower license, after decades of the University of Mississippi being the sole producer of cannabis for research.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will also look into the therapeutic potential of cannabis. Findings supporting such benefits could go a long way in the production and sale of cannabis-based products with medicinal use.

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