Oregon reports big jump in marijuana business applications, licenses

In another sign that cannabis could be bigger business than previously forecast, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission says it received 1,907 recreational marijuana license applications in 2016 — far outstripping a projected 800 to 1,200, the agency said.

Seven hundred sixty-two of those applications were approved as of the end of last week, a big jump from 500 licenses in early December. In that time, the number of licensed retailers went from 99 to 260.

Processors, who have struggled with strict testing and labeling requirements, have been slower to get licensed, but the number in that category was up significantly as well, from 18 to 51.

“Our staff has worked nonstop and with determination to get this industry licensed,” OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks said in a statement. “Working after hours, working weekends, traveling long distances, this team has been flexible in getting this industry licensed, without compromising the trust placed in us to protect the public.”

Oregonians voted for legalization in November 2014, and the state began transitioning toward a regulated recreational market in October 2015 with “early start” rules, which allowed dispensaries to extend sales to adults who didn’t have medical cards.

That got recreational sales off to a fast start: In December, the Department of Revenue reported that tax payments totaled $54.5 million from Jan. 1 through Nov 30., $13.8 million more than the Legislative Revenue Office had projected.

But early sales ended with the arrival of 2017; all businesses operating in the recreational space now must be licensed by the OLCC.

The big increase in recreational retailers has coincided with a decline in dispensaries.

As of last week, since Oct. 1, 121 dispensaries had either surrendered their registration or withdrawn their application to go retail, and the number of dispensaries had shrunk from a peak of 425 to 307.

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, co-vice chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Legalization, told the Business Journal’s Elizabeth Hayes that he expected the number to ultimately dwindle to around 30.

In its statistics update, the OLCC also reported that it had approved 9,041 Marijuana Worker Permits out of 10,700 applications received.

Pete Danko

Advertisements