Combine recreational and medical marijuana programs: Editorial – OregonLive.com
As soon as recreational marijuana becomes legally available for retail sale, in 2016, the need for an independent medical marijuana market goes away.
As Oregon regulators and lawmakers undertake the creation of a market and regulatory apparatus for the legal and safe sale of recreational marijuana, the simple question arises: Should recreational pot be kept separate from medical marijuana? Or should both markets be melded into one and, with a regulatory system tailored to both, pot sold from the same place, creating one-stop shopping for what amounts to the same desired product?
Medical marijuana is increasingly rated and purchased according to potency, variety and reported pharmacologic properties. But so, too, will recreational marijuana as the market develops and consumers exert ever-finer preferences. It makes sense to combine both markets and to bring adequate regulation from grow site to sales counter. To do so would be efficient, avoiding expensive duplication in legal sales settings and complication in tracking potentially more than one supply chain. In narrowing law enforcement efforts associated with the storefront sale of pot to both customer streams, meanwhile, costs otherwise shouldered by taxpayers could be kept in line and advance one of Measure 91’s goals: marijuana priced at a retail level that would undercut black market sales.
Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, threw out a not-so-wild notion in a recent interview with The Oregonian’s editorial board: Most Oregon voters who said yes to Measure 91 were simply saying yes to the idea of legal marijuana but had not studied the many provisions within the measure’s more than 30 well-crafted pages. Insofar as she’s correct, and there is no reason to believe that Measure 91’s passage represents a full endorsement of each of its stipulations, she takes the position that the Legislature should view the measure as “a pretty good draft” of just another bill open to adjustment by vote of Oregon’s lawmakers. Significantly, Measure 91 is designed to have no impact on the medical marijuana system.
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But Burdick joins lawyer and Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, in heading a joint committee that will coordinate with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in implementing Measure 91, and Burdick’s instinct on the Legislature’s role is correct: Honor the will of voters to make recreational pot legal but do so in a way that’s legible, efficient and respects community preferences on sales of the drug. Asked directly about the possibility of folding medical and recreational marijuana into one regulated market, Burdick was noncommittal. But separately, she did say: “Medical marijuana would never have existed” had marijuana been legal. Indeed: As soon as recreational marijuana becomes legally available in retail settings, sometime in 2016, the need for an independent medical marijuana market goes away. Qualifying ages for purchasing pot, of course, still should apply: 21 for recreational pot, 18 for medical marijuana.
Troy Moore, co-owner of the Portland medical dispensary Oregon’s Finest, enjoys a devoted card-carrying clientele. But he told the editorial board that recreational and medical marijuana could comfortably co-exist under one roof: “It would be nice to have them in one place…. If we could just have customers check in at the door, that’d work fine.”
The Legislature should make it so – or some efficient version of it. And state regulation, from grower to retail outlet for both recreational and medical marijuana, could help ensure accurate product tracking, fair pricing, efficient taxation – and much-needed legibility for communities struggling to accommodate an expanded legal marijuana market.
Measure 91’s passage was easy enough, if hard-fought. Combining recreational and medical marijuana programs, a logical outgrowth, will take some doing. But it offers Oregonians the most sensible approach going forward.