Murmurs: Jeremy Christian Trial Opens Contentiously

In other news: The price of wholesale weed rebounds.

CHRISTIAN TRIAL OPENS CONTENTIOUSLY: The highest-profile murder trial in recent Oregon history—that of accused MAX train killer Jeremy Christian—opened Jan. 28 on a combative note. "Are you ready to smash Portland's fairy tale?" Christian asked as he was escorted into the courtroom where he faces trial for the murders of Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, and the attempted murder of Micah Fletcher. Christian's defense attorney Dean Smith argued Christian acted in self-defense in stabbing the three men, whom Smith described as "the three attackers": "When the odds are against you, you defend yourself," Smith said. "Mr. Fletcher did not have the right to assault Mr. Christian." He then accused Fletcher of committing a felony for attempting to shove Christian off the train before Christian pulled his knife. Relatives of the victims appeared upset as the defense made its case. A few got up to leave. State prosecutors seemed to anticipate this argument from the defense: "If self-defense is raised," said prosecutor Donald Rees prior to the defense's opening arguments, "the state will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it does not apply to Jeremy Christian."

WEED PRICES HIGHER DESPITE OVERSUPPLY: In a report released earlier this month, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission highlighted a surprising paradox. Oregon weed farmers produced another bumper crop in 2019, their biggest ever. Previous large crops caused wholesale prices to crash from $1,700 a pound in mid-2017 to $650 a pound in April 2019. But strong demand from processors—who use pot to make edibles and oils—led to a rally in the second half of 2019, boosting prices back to $1,200 a pound. That's the good news, according to the OLCC, which regulates recreational cannabis. The not-so-good news is that the edibles and oils are stacking up on shelves and have long shelf lives. In essence, the oversupply has moved from raw to finished product, but it's still an oversupply. Farmers are better off than they were a year ago, the OLCC report concludes, but "even though demand is increasing significantly, it may still be consuming prior years' supply of extracts and concentrates, and more time is needed to reduce 'back stock' of inventories."

MORE COSTS IN THE ROSE QUARTER: The $795 million cost of widening Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter—an estimate that rises to $1 billion with freeway caps—doesn't include costs to local agencies, such as TriMet and the Portland Streetcar. Oregon Department of Transportation officials tell WW the cost could be an additional $10 million to $20 million for each of those agencies, but declined to provide a more narrow estimate. "Jurisdictional costs have not been identified," says ODOT spokeswoman April deLeon-Galloway. "We still need to meet with project partners." TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt says the transit agency does not have a cost estimate, "because we do not know yet what the impacts will be. We are pushing for no impact to the MAX."

UNIONS SEEK TO FIRE AWOL LAWMAKERS: Oregon public employee unions filed petitions Jan. 28 seeking to place measures on the November ballot that would punish lawmakers who skip a legislative session for 10 days or more. The ballot initiative to remove AWOL lawmakers from office—accompanied by another that would fine them $500 a day, dock their salaries and prevent them from recouping losses through campaign contributions—is aimed at blocking tactics like the 2019 walkout by Republican senators that derailed a bill capping carbon emissions. "When elected officials refuse to do the job that Oregonians sent them to Salem to do, they are no longer fit to serve," said chief petitioners Andrea Kennedy-Smith and Reed Scott-Schwalbach in a statement. Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. (R-Grants Pass) was not impressed. "Do the union members get fired for when they go on strike?" he asked. "Anyway, it's not constitutional. Anybody with half a brain knows that, except for the unions."