Editorial: Legislature's 'joint committee' can build on previous work – Corvallis Gazette Times
One of the key challenges facing the 2015 Oregon Legislature when it gets down to work next month will be writing the rules to implement Measure 91, the initiative that legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
Already, the Legislature has struggled with its first challenge: Naming the committee that will be charged with the heavy lifting. As one legislator told us, the panel originally was called the “Joint Committee on Marijuana,” until someone took a long look at the name. Then the suggestion was made just to call it the “Joint Committee,” which would have been somewhat accurate but still bears the whiff of a Cheech & Chong routine.
That idea eventually gave way to the final nomenclature of the panel: It will be the “Joint Committee on Measure 91 Implementation,” which still doesn’t get rid of the “joint” part, but seems suitably cloaked in bureaucratic phrasing to get the job done. (The committee, by the way, includes Albany Rep. Andy Olson among its members.)
Even though Measure 91 was remarkably detailed, the committee still has plenty of challenges ahead of it. Sen. Ginny Burdick, the Portland Democrat who is one of the two chairs of the committee, suggested in a meeting with The Oregonian editorial board that most voters weren’t familiar with the intricacies of the measure – but generally supported the idea of legalization.
The upshot, Burdick said, is that legislators have some room to maneuver, as long as they honor the overall will of voters.
That’s probably correct – even though it does leave plenty of room for mischief. For example, expect the panel to endure heavy lobbying from cities and counties looking to cash in by taxing the sale of marijuana, even though Measure 91 is reasonably clear that only the state can tax it. (The general concern here is that, the more you tax recreational pot, the more likely it is that black-market pot will be a cheaper alternative.)
The joint committee does have one big advantage: Legislators already have labored to create a structure that governs the distribution of medical marijuana. That process didn’t go perfectly, but the structure is up and running, and we can’t see any reason why legislators wouldn’t take a careful look at combining the recreational and medical markets. Why invent this particular wheel twice?
In fact, many of the medical marijuana dispensaries that already have jumped through the state’s regulatory hoops and opened their shops have said they’re considering expanding their businesses to include recreational marijuana.
That’s not to say it will all be smooth sailing for the panel – for one thing, consider the bad jokes its members will endure all session for serving on the “joint committee.” But taking a careful look at combining the marketplaces will give its members a head start at working through the myriad other details that need to be settled.