Federal Prosecutor May Crack Down on Oregon’s Legal Pot Trade

FILE – This Sept. 30, 2016 file photo shows a marijuana bud before harvesting at a rural area near Corvallis, Ore. Billy Williams, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, is holding a marijuana summit to address what he calls a “massive” marijuana surplus in the state. He announced the Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 summit, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a memo outlining how states with legalized marijuana could avoid federal scrutiny. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Oregon’s top federal prosecutor took aim Friday at what he called “massive overproduction” of legal marijuana that he says has leaked out into the black market, attracting drug cartels, causing environmental damage and endangering children.

U.S. Attorney Billy Williams told attendees of his “marijuana summit” on Friday that his office will ramp up collection and scrutiny of data on black market trafficking in Oregon, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2014. But the state has already approved initiatives aimed at the problem, such as a “seed-to-sale” tracking system.

The summit included law enforcement officials from across the state, representatives from Oregon’s legal cannabis industry, and Gov. Kate Brown, who spoke in support of Williams’ plan despite her assertion last month that U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions had “pulled the rug out from under the legal marijuana industry” when he rescinded Obama-era legal protections for the cannabis industry in states that had approved such businesses.

Williams recently penned an opinion piece published in The Oregonian in which he said Oregon has a “massive marijuana overproduction problem” which fuels the black market and criminality in the state.

He didn’t say how his office planned to crack down on what he called Oregon’s “identifiable and formidable overproduction and diversion problem.”

But he claimed concerns about the environmental effects of wholesale cannabis farming and the potential for Oregon teens to get their hands on the black-market surplus spurred him to act.

“That is the fact,” Williams said Friday. “And my responsibility is to work with our state partners to do something about it.”


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