Oregon, awash in cannabis, looks to curb production

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Oregon is awash in cannabis, glutted with so much legal weed that if growing were to stop today, it could take more than six years by one estimate to smoke or eat it all.

Now, the state is looking to curb production.

Five years after voters legalized recreational cannabis, lawmakers are moving to give the Oregon Liquor Control Commission more leeway to deny new cannabis-growing licenses based on supply and demand.

The bill, which passed the Senate and is now before the House, is aimed not just at reducing the huge surplus but at preventing diversion of unsold legal cannabis into the black market and forestalling a crackdown by federal prosecutors.

“The harsh reality is we have too much product on the market,” said Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who intends to sign the bill if it wins final passage as expected.

Supply is running twice as high as demand, meaning that the surplus from last year’s harvest alone could amount to roughly 2.3 million pounds of cannabis, by the liquor commission’s figures. That’s the equivalent of more than 1 billion joints.

Oregon has one of the highest such imbalances among the 10 states that have legalized recreational cannabis since 2012, in part because it had a big head start in the cannabis business.

With its moist climate and rich soil, Oregon has a long history of cannabis growing. When it became legal, many outlaw

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