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DON’T SMOKE THE MESSENGER: Light me up in 2017, this year is on Fire

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For the cannabis industry in Oregon, 2016 started as a year of promise. Instead, it was year of roller coaster rides, and for some, dashed hopes and dreams. Medical growers and providers in Jackson County, one of the state’s largest producing counties, find themselves fighting the County for their right to farm. Edible and concentrate producers find themselves standing still on productions and sales, just hoping that they will be able to whether the legislative changes and testing requirements to resume business. Many conspire the state is “just trying to shut down all the little guys.”

Instead of wallowing, the Oregon Cannabis Association, one of the most prominent cannabis groups in the state, gathered to celebrate what went well, and what potential 2017 has in store. The bouncing floors of Lola’s Room at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland and the happy hour drinks (or was it just the little bit of Drip Ice Cream I had earlier?) kept the mood of the room light and lively. Amy Margolis and Meredith Shield, who work in Salem and Washington DC on behalf of Oregon cannabis businesses, were relieved to say good-bye to this last year, and are excited for 2017, despite the dark impending cloud of January 20. 

Sheild, who will be taking Margolis’s place this year as the Association’s lobbyist, was excited as she reported the state of the industry to the Association members. And she has every reason to be.

2016 wasn’t all bad, at all. Over 2000 retail jobs were created by the cannabis industry in Oregon last year, according to an economic Oregon Cannabis Jobs Report. This equates to roughly $46 million in wages. And this report only covered the retail side of business; just imagine what the numbers will be once new employees at farms (so many trimmers!), labs, production facilities, and everything else, are added in. 

There was $54.5 million dollars in just tax revenue from recreational sales, January- November 2016 in the State of Oregon. There was $9.4 million in both recreational and medical sales for just the last quarter in 2016 alone, and it would have been more if there hadn’t been a 32% drop in sales of concentrates and edibles, due to licensing and lab short falls. 

There is still a lot of work to do: There are 70-100 bills expected in the next legislative session in Salem. The topics the bills address range from updating penalties to discussing a model for social consumption. They invite everyone to participate in Lobby Day on March 17, 2017, to strengthen the voice and helps create reasonable legislation. 

And what about that dark cloud? They believe, when it comes to change on a federal level, the tide is changing so quickly across the nation, that federal changes are near on the horizon. There is even a cannabis caucus being formed in Congress.

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