BANDON — Charles Johnson, the founder and CEO of Truly Oreganic, began his business venture into the marijuana industry back in 2016.
The Mississippi native, who originally moved to Oregon to study biology, said after finishing school he had a decision to make – to either enter the health industry or pursue his longtime interest in marijuana production.
“The industry was starting to open up at that time,” he said. “I had been a hobby grower for many years and it had been such a big part of my life that I thought the opportunity was too big to miss.”
Like thousands of other entrepreneurs, Johnson seized the opportunity and entered the market. As the years have passed by, Johnson said he’s seen firsthand the overproduction of marijuana contribute to a number of significant challenges including price drops.
“The prices have been driven down so much that if you’re not developing a product that is standing out in any way then it’s going to be pretty hard to compete,” said Johnson. “We are one of very few organic producers who can boast about not using any type of liquid nutrient of any kind to keep the plants as organic as they can possibly be.”
That being said, Johnson said as an organic grower the drop in prices forced him to look into selling his product into higher populated cities with retailers who are willing to spend a bit more on his specialty crop.
Charles Johnson, founder and CEO of Truly Oreganic, stands near several acres of land that will soon be planted with hemp south of Bandon. Hem…
“We use to be able to sell our product to a lot of local guys around the Bandon and Coos Bay area, but nowadays they are looking for such low prices that our price point just doesn’t match with theirs,” he said.
In January, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) released a study that found that the state’s inventory of marijuana is so high that it’s estimated to lasts theoretically over six years.
With thousands of grow sites around the state and more looking to become licensed, Oregon lawmakers passed a measure (Senate Bill 218) last month to authorize OLCC to deny further licenses to first time growers based on the state’s supply and demand for cannabis.
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The bill, which is already in effect, will allow OLCC to better control the number of licenses it approves. Currently, the state has over 1,100 active marijuana producer licenses around the state with Coos County hosting about 24 of those sites.
Another bill (Senate Bill 582) was also passed last month authorizing the governor to enter into agreements with other states for the purposes of importing and exporting marijuana. The bill, which will go into effect next year, will expand the market for growers into new areas.
While it’s too early to tell, Johnson said he believes both the bills will have a positive influence on the industry. As of now, he said he is currently moving forward with his own plans to expand his business by opening a dispensary in the Portland area in the next few months.
The Bandon-based farm, which produces about 500 pounds a year, is also looking to expand its operations into the hemp industry, said Johnson.
“A lot of growers here in Oregon and a lot of people I know growing outdoors are moving away from growing cannabis and are transitioning their farms into growing hemp,” said Johnson. “The market for hemp is a lot bigger than just trying to sell your product within the state.”
Last year, the federal government passed the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 which lifted the ban on hemp production nationwide.
In addition to the new storefront and hemp production, Johnson also added that the farm is awaiting two new licenses with OLCC that would allow them to become marijuana processors and wholesalers. Doing so, he said will allow them to create concentrates from their own inventory.
“In the meantime we are just going to continue to grow high quality, rain-grown organic cannabis,” said Johnson.