Special report: Oregon's marijuana black market still green

Despite legalization, it remains big business

Black market pot sales still hot

BEND, Ore. - Oregon remains a key player in a multi billion-dollar industry, but it’s a reputation Oregon State Police would like to lose, since this particular industry is the growing and selling of black-market marijuana.

"One can make considerably more money for the same product,” said a Bend grower who wants to remain anonymous. We’ll call him David.

He said he sells around 100 pounds of pot a year.

"We grow and harvest it as usual. It just doesn't make its way on to the medical and recreational scene, and we ship it out of state, where we get much more money,” David said.

Federal restrictions on marijuana drive the cost up when it is sold in many other states.

"Here you can probably get $1,000, $1,500 a pound. The black market here in Oregon is a little more gray than other states, and that's why the price is down lower," David said. "You ship it across state lines and it goes up to $4,000, $7,000 a pound."

Moving pot from a state where it’s legal to another where it’s not is called cannabis diversion. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said it’s no different than dealing harder drugs.

"We're not going to take the stance that marijuana use for adults is legal, so marijuana selling in a massive way outside Oregon's legal system is OK,” he said. “No, if somebody is growing for the purpose of selling out of state, or they are growing it or selling it illegally in Deschutes County, we'll prosecute it."

Oregon State Police released a report earlier this year showing just how big a problem diversion is. It found six Oregon counties, including Deschutes, are leading the way in illicit exportation of cannabis. The report estimates nearly 80 percent of the state’s weed ends up leaving for the East Coast.

David said he uses the U.S. Postal Service to ship packages of marijuana across state lines, making up to $100,000 a shipment.

Hummel said that's a major offense.

"If you're using the U.S. mail system to illegally deal drugs, you'll be doing prison time in a federal prison," he said.

It’s hard to track, but estimates show less than a third of transactions are made legally.

Despite many hopes, legalization hasn't squashed the black market, it’s simply changed the game.

"In Oregon, we are seeing less drug dealing of marijuana products in Oregon, (but) we're seeing more diversion to other states,” Hummel said.

An evolving business model is keeping the green economy from going up in smoke.

"There will always be a demand for the black market,” David said.

More information can be found in the OSP report by clicking this link:

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