Where We Live: Oregon’s growing marijuana industry

"Oregon's going to lead the nation in cannabis"

A cannabis bud is seen at Amazon Organics, a pot dispensary in Eugene, Ore., on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
A cannabis bud is seen at Amazon Organics, a pot dispensary in Eugene, Ore., on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon is bringing the black market out of the shadows, and for the first time, you don’t need a medical marijuana card to walk into a pot shop.

Marijuana has always been one of Oregon’s most lucrative cash crops, and now that it’s legal, it’s changing where we live.

“I think this puts Oregon on the map,” Oregon’s Finest dispensary owner Mark Seid said. “Oregon’s going to lead the nation in cannabis.”

Different varieties of marijuana flowers are displayed at medical marijuana dispensary Kaya Shack in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)
Different varieties of marijuana flowers are displayed at medical marijuana dispensary Kaya Shack in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

Seid, a former nightclub owner, is among the new breed of Oregon entrepreneurs making the most of the state’s growing marijuana industry.

But Oregon was already leading the nation in cannabis production well before legalization. Industry leaders estimate up to 25% of the country’s black market marijuana was grown right here.

Seid says the cannabis grown in Oregon is far superior in quality than anything else that’s out there.

Troy Moore is a grower for Ideal Farms, which supplies cannabis for Oregon’s Finest. He says legalization changed his world overnight.

“It’s really changed,” Moore said. “For one, we let news cameras in our grows, which is definitely very different.”

Deb Greene, right, chooses marijuana from a display case with the help of clerk Willis Bibbs at Cannabis City. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, Pool)
Deb Greene, right, chooses marijuana from a display case with the help of clerk Willis Bibbs at Cannabis City. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, Pool)

Moore says he’s been growing marijuana for 20 years. He calls himself a craft grower, similar to those involved in Oregon’s craft beer industry. And like craft beer, Moore says the marijuana industry has potential for extreme growth.

In Colorado, where marijuana was legalized in 2014, medical dispensaries sold $700 million in cannabis during the first year alone, generating $76 million in taxes. The newly-formed Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association predicts the state will see at least that much, making marijuana Oregon’s most lucrative cash crop after the nursery industry.

Retailers say their biggest struggle right now is dealing with banks that won’t take money generated from marijuana sales, because the federal government still considers it an illegal narcotic.

Because legal cannabis tends to be pricier than products on the street, the black market is still out there.

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