Oregon’s Cannabis Industry Endures Sales Drop, More Crime, and Braces for More Challenges

News Article
Shattered windows in the front door of a store.
Portland’s Council Responds by Approving Additional $500K for First-in-the-Country Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund and Advancing $1.05M in Social Equity & Educational Development Grants

PORTLAND, Ore.— The City of Portland’s Cannabis Program and local advocates presented to Portland City Council On Thursday, sharing sobering statistics that underscore how repetitive theft, increased overhead, and inflation are negatively impacting the economy. What is more, Portland retailers are currently selling product at extremely discounted rates and cannabis industry experts caution that Oregon’s cannabis ecosystem is vulnerable.

“We’re noting cannabis consumers shifting their dollars toward other summer fundamentals such as groceries, childcare, vacations, and gas,” said Cannabis Policy Oversight Team (CPOT) Chair Travis Mauer. “I’m hopeful that the City, CPOT and our three subcommittees will continue to find creative, workable, and long-term solutions to re-invest in it, while growing the industry.”

A linge graph of cannabis sales between October 2016 and Jun 2022. The line increases rapidly and peaks in summer of 2020 and 2021, but declines going into summer 2022.
Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission data showing the peak in cannabis sales in 2020 and 2021, and the decline in sales in 2022. Sales numbers in 2022 are closer to the pre-pandemic sales numbers in 2019.

Portland’s Shaken Cannabis Industry
In December 2021, Portland City Council approved the Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) — the first-of-its-kind in the country. This allowed Civic Life's Cannabis Program to allocate $1.33M in umbrella grants to three community partners — NuProject, The Initiative and the Oregon Cannabis Association — to support and stimulate emergency relief grants for cannabis business and individuals. Applications opened and closed in 24 days because the need was overwhelming.

“The cannabis industry continues to endure a series of hardships no one likes talking about,” said Licensing, Compliance, & Policy Supervisor Christina Coursey. “They are without a lifeline, and our office received dozens of calls seeking resources. Portland is the first government entity to respond by creating and launching CERF.”

At Thursday's City Council session, CERF community partners joined the Cannabis team to summarize how they distributed the relief grants for small, Portland-licensed businesses and cannabis industry workers economically impacted by COVID-19, vandalism, theft, wildfire, and the residual effects of illness, trauma, and grief suffered from those impacts. 

OLCC theft
Civic Life shared OLCC's data related to theft cases in Portland since early 2020.

The City of Portland Offers Hopeful Recovery
For some of Portland's 389 cannabis businesses, CERF afforded them the opportunity to keep their doors open and bring back employees. For individuals, it meant paying their bills and childcare. Those in the industry were ineligible for federal or state-administered COVID-19 relief due to federal prohibition. Hear from CERF partners, employees and business owners in this video.

Text reads: Impact of CERF. CERF awarded up to $25,000 to small, licensed cannabis businesses and up to $5,000 to cannabis industry workers. 96% met CERF priority of historically disadvantaged populations. 11% prior cannabis convictions. 53 cannabis businesses funded. 120 cannabis employees funded.
Statistics showing the impact of the initial CERF approved by Council in Dec. 2021. Since early 2020, 271 theft incidents have been reported in Portland, and many stores report repeated cases.

“Since July 2020, Oregon’s cannabis industry shows a 14% drop in average monthly sales,” reported Cannabis Program Manager Dasheeda Dawson. “Our office continues to work with City Council and CPOT to offset these unprecedented burdens by using cannabis tax revenue to implement programs like CERF.”

On Thursday, City Council unanimously approved an additional $456,901 for CERF to help support even more cannabis businesses and employees. Applications for the additional funds will open in late 2022.

The City Council presentation can be viewed here.

Portland’s Social Equity & Educational Development (SEED) Initiatives
Despite current challenges, the City’s Cannabis team reminded City Council how a portion of the 3% of recreational cannabis tax revenue is going back into the community to support people most impacted by past cannabis prohibition.

On Thursday, Council also approved $1 million in funding for ten SEED Grant recipients. The SEED Grant prioritize BIPOC- and women-led small business initiatives that support economic and educational development of BIPOC communities. The recipients implement innovative and progressive workforce development, entrepreneurship, social justice or expungement programs with proven results.

Since 2017, the SEED Grant Fund has awarded more than $4.3 million to more than 40 grant recipients.

A collage of students and Teacher/Mentors who are part of the Elevate Oregon program. Full left: A Teacher/Mentor and a student looking at the camera. Top: A group of six masked students hold up peace signs with their fingers. Bottom left: A student sitting at a desk holds a rainbow-colored teddy bear. Bottom right: Two people in masks pose for the camera. Full right: A student in a school hallway holds up a certificate of admission to Portland State University.
SEED Grant recipient Elevate Oregon serves hundreds of students in the Parkrose School District, Oregon's third most diverse school district, to develop character qualities and life skills that form a good foundation for the rest of their lives.

Media Availability Leading up to Cannabis Empowerment Day
The City’s Cannabis team and partners are available for on-camera interviews leading up to Cannabis Empowerment Day, Oregon’s first community-centered celebration, on Friday, Aug. 12.

Local and state officials are expected to attend and speak, and cannabis businesses and grant recipients will exhibit their work and network.

Advance on-camera interview requests are available for:

  • Cannabis Program Manager Dasheeda Dawson
  • Licensing, Compliance, & Policy Supervisor Christina Coursey
  • NuProject CEO Jeanette Ward Horton
  • SEED Grant recipients 
  • CERF Grant recipients 

Please contact daniel.mcardle-jaimes@portlandoregon.gov to coordinate the scheduling of interviews.

More information about CERF and SEED can be found here:

A photograph of two black store owners sitting on the front stoop of their store. One of the people has his arms crossed and looks to the left while smiling. The other person has her arm on the other person's shoulder and laughs. Overlaid on the photo are the words "Cannabis Empowerment Day 2022, Friday, August 12"

About Civic Life 
The Cannabis Program is housed within the Office of Community & Civic Life (Civic Life). Civic Life connects the people of Portland with their City government to promote the common good. Our programs create a culture of collaboration, expanding possibilities for all Portlanders to contribute their knowledge, experience, and creativity to solve local problems and make life better in the city we all share. portlandoregon.gov/civic.