Oregon Economist Projects Cannabis Sales to Rival Colorado’s, But Admits the Forecast is “Highly Uncertain”

Oregonians smoke weed at a higher rate than Washington residents, and have large concentrations of pot shops in the biggest cities—especially Portland.

Portland Pot Shop (Henry Cromett)

A state economist says strong cannabis sales indicate that Oregon could collect $156 million in marijuana taxes over the next two years—but cautions that supply shortages and the fluctuating cost of weed make those projections "highly uncertain."

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis on Wednesday released its forecast for Oregon's recreational cannabis revenue.

In the first year of recreational cannabis sales, Oregon closely tracks Colorado and outpaces the state of Washington when sales are adjusted for population size.

The forecast, written by state economist Josh Lehner, lists four reasons for why Oregon has been able to sell marijuana at this rate: Oregonians smoke pot at a higher rate than Washington residents, burden pot with less taxes, sell that cheap weed to Washington consumers, and have large concentrations of pot shops in the biggest cities—especially Portland.

Lehner also believes sales are "poised for strong growth," but not quite as strong as Colorado's second and third years. "Oregon's first year closely tracks Colorado's first year and outpaces Washington's," the report says.

One substantial risk? Supply constraints that would keep inventory low and hinder sales. These constraints include regulatory bottlenecks that keep growers and processors from getting licenses.

Another? A federal crackdown, though Lehner thinks that's unlikely.

"While there has been no clear warning or action taken," he writes, "there is a non-zero chance the federal government could step in and eliminate, or severely restrict recreational marijuana sales. In this event, taxes collected would be considerably less than forecasted."

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