Hours before marijuana becomes legal in Oregon, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer said the state’s rollout will “loom large” as other states and the federal government consider marijuana-related legislation.

“Oregon can be a textbook example of how to do it right,” Blumenauer said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Portland headquarters. The congressman, a longtime proponent of legal marijuana, called Oregon’s law the best in the nation.

Oregon’s law takes effect at midnight. State legislators Tuesday advanced three bills to shape the law, including setting a sales tax and allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell to recreational customers starting in October, before a state retail system is in place.

Blumenauer said he’s seeing lots of momentum in Congress, including more than a dozen pieces of bipartisan legislation, to “further modernize marijuana laws.”

He said he’s optimistic that Congress will pass laws granting marijuana businesses the right to open bank accounts, calling the status quo “insane” and “lunacy.”

Blumenauer said “forcing a business to be conducted on an all-cash basis is an invitation for” money laundering. He said he also expects support for legislation allowing marijuana business owners to file deductions on their taxes.

“These are two things that people I think can get behind regardless what they feel about marijuana. This is just common sense.”

Blumenauer and supporters of Oregon’s Measure 91, the voter-passed initiative legalizing the drug, said they will monitor the system to make sure police and the criminal justice system aren’t unfairly targeting minorities.

Anthony Johnson, Measure 91’s chief petitioner, said work remains: “There’s still people in prison, there’s still disparity in how the law is carried out, and there’s still improvements to be done.”

— Andrew Theen
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