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Oregon edibles THC potency

Will proposed changes to a THC potency cap help Oregon’s edibles industry?

Oregon’s rules cap THC in cannabis edibles at 5 milligrams in a single serving and no more than 50 milligrams in a package. That’s half of what’s permitted in many states where cannabis is legal, including nearby Washington and Colorado, which permit 10 milligrams of THC per serving and 100 milligrams per package. 

“This has been a great source of frustration for many here in the Oregon industry who believe it’s stifling growth,” said Casey Houlihan, executive director of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, which has for years been lobbying the Oregon Health Authority to change the rule. “Flower is so cheap a lot of people will just buy it at the store and use it to make edibles at home. It’s driving all these absurd workarounds, and the industry is pushing back.”

The Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, the Oregon Cannabis Association, and F.A.R.M.S. Inc. have requested the state legislature to reconsider the limits. Under Senate Bill 408, the Oregon Health Authority would be required to adopt rules that increase the amount of THC permitted per package to 100 milligrams.

“As a way of keeping the peace, we’re keeping the 5 milligram dose,” Houlihan said. “The industry didn’t want to change their processes or formulation.”

Houlihan said his group hasn’t gotten much push back on the bill and noted that the Oregon governor’s office has said it would not oppose it. But most legislators are not cannabis consumers, so whether the bill will be approved is still a question.

“I think that a lot of them lack the nuanced understanding of the way the industry operates,” Houlihan said. “Older legislators aren’t as familiar with these products, so it goes back to what they’ve read in media reports…There’s been no compelling media narrative to reverse the course.”

So what does the Oregon edibles market look like?

Edibles made up about 12% of the $1.1 billion in sales Oregon’s regulated cannabis market reached in 2020, according to BDSA, a leading cannabis market research provider. In other states where cannabis is legal, edibles made up 13% of sales. Oregon’s total cannabis market increased by 38 percent between 2019 and 2020, while edibles sales grew  about 27%.

About three-quarters of cannabis consumers in Oregon have consumed edibles in the past six months, which is consistent with other fully legal states. However, the preference for edibles in Oregon is slightly lower than the rest of the country — 28% of cannabis consumers in Oregon say they prefer edibles, compared with 33% of consumers across all fully legal states.

Oregon manufacturers say the issue is not so much potency per dose, but overall value

Oregon-based gummy manufacturer Wyld manufactures a 10 milligram gummy in three of the four states they operate in. Although many people actually prefer lower-dose products, increasing the amount of THC permitted in each package of candy would improve the value and likely impact sales, said Max Krueger, Wyld’s chief of staff. 

“I think we would see an uptick in sales because consumers are getting more milligrams per dollar, but it’s less about the number of milligrams and more about the price per milligram. If regulatory bodies wanted to open it up, we would gladly welcome that.”

Kevin Hogan, co-founder and president of Bend-based Oregrown, agrees that the lower per-serving dose of 5 milligrams hasn’t necessarily hurt sales of edibles, but he expects that increasing the amount of THC to 100 milligrams per package will boost their popularity.

“That allows for a better price per milligram,” Hogan said. “We won’t see that same brand charge twice the amount for a 100-milligram package. We’ll see consumption increase.”

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