PORTLAND, Ore. — One of the highest federal law enforcement officials in Oregon had strong words on Thursday for the state's handling of legalized marijuana, following the release of a new interstate report on the legal marijuana industry.
“The recent HIDTA Insight Report on marijuana production, distribution, and consumption in Oregon confirms what we already know—it is out of control," said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon in a statement. "The industry’s considerable and negative impacts on land use, water, and underage consumption must be addressed immediately."
The Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program was first instituted by the White House to help coordinate anti-drug law enforcement efforts in Oregon beginning in 1999. Areas of Idaho were added to the program in 2015. This year, the HIDTA released their "Insight Report," interrogating the results of Oregon's legalization of marijuana.
"State officials should respond quickly and in a comprehensive manner to address the many concerns raised by this assessment," said Williams. "To date, we’ve seen insufficient progress from our state officials. We are alarmed by revelations from industry representatives, landowners, and law enforcement partners describing the insufficient and underfunded regulatory and enforcement structure governing both recreational and medical use. A weakly-regulated industry will continue to detract from the livability and health of communities throughout the state.”
The HIDTA report found that in Oregon "there is about one cannabis grow site for every 19 users," suggesting runaway overproduction of marijuana. Meanwhile, drafters of the report estimated that there were roughly 417,000 active marijuana users "of varying usage frequency" in the state at the time immediately following its legalization—equating to about 10 percent of the state's population.
Some of the report's most dire conclusions took aim at the Rogue Valley in particular:
"As a result of overproduction, impoverished counties that are heavily engaged in the cultivation of cannabis, such as Jackson, Josephine and Lane; face a critical economic risk from collapsing cannabis prices."
The report also claimed that the "historic use" and "exponential growth" of marijuana grow operations in the Rogue River Basin put the area under "acute hydrologic strain."
“What is often lost in this discussion is the link between marijuana and serious, interstate criminal activity. Overproduction is rampant and the illegal transport of product out of state—a violation of both state and federal law—continues unchecked. My ask continues to be for transparency, responsible regulation, adequate funding, and a willingness to work together. It’s time for the state to wake up, slow down, and address these issues in a responsible and thoughtful manner,” said Williams.