Idaho Residents Are Buying A Ton Of Cannabis In Oregon
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Oregon allows the sale, possession, and consumption of recreational marijuana. Idaho doesn’t even allow medical marijuana, much less recreational. Apparently, the people in Idaho have decided not to wait for their lawmakers to catch up with their views on cannabis.
The per-person sales of recreational marijuana at Oregon dispensaries near the Idaho border are 420 percent higher than sales in the rest of the state, according to a report by Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.
At least 75 percent of those sales are attributable to people crossing the border from Idaho and buying cannabis in Oregon, the report stated.
And yes, the number really is “420.” Lehner called that number one of those “things you cannot make up.”
One county shows the impact of a “huge border effect.”
To illustrate that sales in eastern Oregon counties are not about socio-economic conditions or other factors, Lehner wrote about the impact of three new marijuana dispensaries in Ontario, Oregon. Their impact demonstrates how opening a dispensary there was a shrewd move by smart entrepreneurs.
Before the three stores opened, most Idaho residents were driving into Baker County in Oregon to buy weed, because it was the closest dispensary. The three dispensaries in Ontario opened in the summer of 2019.
Since then, sales in Baker County plummeted 80% while sales in Malheur County, where Ontario is located, soared. The Ontario stores are 30 to 60 minutes closer to Idaho. Lehner called this “a knock-on impact of the border effect. Proximity or distance traveled matters as do product availability, prices, and taxes.”
Washington counties that border Idaho also have larger per-person marijuana sales than other parts of the state, according to the report.
Farming communities turning into cannabis boomtowns.
Last year, visiting a dispensary near the Idaho border, a reporter for the Idaho Statesman found nine out of 10 license plates in a busy dispensary parking lot were from Idaho, confirming what sales numbers were already showing.
That same article, written in 2019, also included interviews with people in Ontario. Even then, they knew what was coming. Ontario residents are already used to a rush of Idaho shoppers. The tiny town’s population swells daily as Idahoans come to Oregon to make regular consumer purchases, rather than pay their own state’s higher sales tax.
Ontario is only about 50 miles from Boise, the capital of Idaho. The population of about 11,000 “quadruples in size each day” with shoppers from Idaho, according to the Statesman.
Are these people from Idaho breaking the law?
Yes. Any Idaho resident who brings marijuana back into their state from Oregon is committing a crime. That’s because Idaho has not decriminalized marijuana possession, and traveling with legal cannabis across any state border is prohibited in the U.S.
The existing laws in Idaho are strict. According to the marijuana advocate organization NORML, possession of fewer than 3 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor that carries a possible $1,000 fine and a one-year jail sentence. Possession of more than three ounces can carry a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence.
However, Idahoans are not alone. This is happening across the country. People from Indiana are going into Illinois; people from Ohio are buying weed in Michigan. Technically, it’s illegal to carry marijuana across state lines. It’s up to law enforcement in each area to decide how much effort to put into enforcing the law.
And the situation isn’t changing anytime soon. In Oregon, Lehner said projections call for an 80 percent gain in recreational marijuana sales in the next decade - a number that probably includes quite a few out-of-staters making the trip across the border.