Portland’s Cannabis Market Shows Signs of Optimism for 2023

News Article
A pair of hands planting a cannabis plant in soil.
$500K of Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund Available on Jan. 16.

PORTLAND, Ore.—Portland has one of the most mature cannabis programs and markets in the world, but it started wilting in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19, increased theft, and wildfires. Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission's (OLCC) 2022 data shows Portland’s cannabis businesses remain vulnerable due to repetitive theft issues that surpassed 2021’s numbers.

Last year, Portland’s cannabis community and City Council safeguarded many brick-and-mortar stores and jobs with the Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). However, the lack of safety nets resulting from federal cannabis prohibition caused dozens of others to close their doors.

On Monday, Jan. 16, Portland-based cannabis businesses and workers can apply for recovery aid from the CERF to continue to safeguard existing cannabis businesses.

Since 2020, the cannabis industry has experienced a dramatic increase in theft, looting and shoplifting. 2020: 119 reported incidents. 2021: 95 reported incidents. 2022: 108 reported incidents. Total number of incidents per year were provided bythe OLCC. To date, the number of incidents that occured in December 2022 have not been released and are not reflected in the 2022 totals.

Are Cannabis Businesses Staying or Leaving Portland?
Today, the City of Portland reports signs of optimism and renewal for the local cannabis market in the new year.

“Despite the OLCC moratorium to not process any new licenses until 2024 and the unfortunate uptick in theft, we are seeing new applications for a transfer of ownership and annual renewal rates hold steady,” said Interim Cannabis Program Manager Christina Coursey.

“Cannabis entrepreneurs want to remain in Portland,” said NuProject Executive Director Jeanette Ward Horton. “They really believe in our market, ecosystem, and community to support them. The creation of CERF is a reflection of this and CERF earned Portland a national reputation for being the first-of-its-kind.”

The CERF was created with the City’s Cannabis Policy Oversight Team (CPOT), which represents community and business members. The CPOT had the innovative vision to create City-level emergency relief to resolve a complicated problem from a restrictive system.

CERF directly supported many cannabis businesses and workers in 2020 and 2021.

How Does CERF Funding Work?
In summer 2022, Portland City Council approved $456,901 in cannabis sales tax revenue toward Portland’s recovery. The vote came amidst two other rising trends – inflation and a decrease in sales.

Council’s vote allowed the Office of Community & Civic Life’s Cannabis Program to direct a one-time allocation in cannabis sales tax revenue for grants to local cannabis businesses and employees impacted by multiple emergencies in 2021 and 2022.

“Cannabis businesses are required to pay taxes on their total sales, including money that is stolen,” said CPOT Chair Travis Maurer. “We all want Oregon to remain a leading cannabis ecosystem, but we have many underlying vulnerabilities that need to be addressed for us to succeed.”

CERF Eligibility Details
Two informational meetings will be held for those interested in learning more about CERF eligibility requirements.

An informational meeting for employees was held by the Cannabis Workers Coalition on Monday, Jan. 9, at 6:30 p.m. PST. You can watch their archived information session here.

An informational meeting for businesses will be led by NuProject on Monday, Jan. 16, at noon PST. For registration details, visit their website.

For details, about the City of Portland’s role and the history of CERF, visit our website: www.portland.gov/civic/cannabis/cerf

About the Cannabis Program  
The City of Portland’s Cannabis Program oversees all regulatory, licensing, compliance, education, and equity initiatives for the City’s legal cannabis industry.

The Cannabis Program is an equity-centered regulatory management framework operationally designed to deliver on the reparative and restorative potential of the global cannabis decriminalization movement.​ The Cannabis Program helps ensure Portland’s cannabis business community creates local jobs, supports public health and safety, employs a diverse workforce, invests in their staff and their communities, and provides consumers with safe, legal options to buy and consume cannabis.

Check out the Cannabis Program Fact Sheet or visit the Cannabis Program website for more information: portland.gov/civic/cannabis

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