Wine country in Oregon’s southern counties of Jackson and Josephine is slowing becoming weed country. The legal cannabis market has overtaken the region in both sales and employee salaries, according to a report from the Mail Tribune.
The two counties alone are home to more than a quarter of the state’s cannabis license applicants, the report states, with nearly 1,000 applications in the region filed with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the main regulatory body for the state’s legal cannabis market.
With just over 40 wine-related businesses operating in Jackson County, including wineries and vineyards, the cannabis industry has surpassed its boozy rival. It’s established 37 farms and nearly 20 dispensaries now employing 439 people, 89 more than the wine industry.
The Tribune also noted that the cannabis industry pays slightly higher than wine producers, with an average wage of $33,731 for farmers and $24,988 for dispensary employees compared to just under $29,512 for wineries and $25,478 for vineyards.
While the report notes that the state’s employment statistics may be incomplete, the growth of Oregon’s cannabis industry is keeping up with predictions. According to a recent report from Cowen & Co, an investment banking research firm, nationwide legalization has the potential to make the cannabis industry larger than the wine industry in the U.S. The report noted that by 2030, sales of cannabis could be as high as $75 billion compared to $62 billion in wine sales in 2017.
But overproduction and falling prices in Oregon could also have an effect. The state’s cannabis producers are currently dealing with oversupply as a result of an exceptionally high yield and a regulatory system that doesn’t place a cap on grower’s licenses.
Last summer, a pound of cannabis went for $1,500, a price which has dropped to around $700 a pound as farmers now look to offload their excess crops. That overproduction has also prompted a crackdown from the state’s U.S. Attorney, Billy Williams, who recently announced that his office will focus law enforcement efforts on out-of-state smuggling in an attempt to enforce the federal ban on cannabis.