Oregon lawmakers have much to discern about marijuana – Statesman Journal
Get over the jokes about the Legislature’s “Joint Committee,” digging through the legislative weeds, and Oregon’s emergence “out of the Stone Age and into the Get Stoned Age.”
Marijuana — as in making state policy about the semi-legal drug — will dominate the 2015 legislative session like no other issue.
In meetings with the Statesman Journal Editorial Board last week, House Speaker Tina Kotek called the issue super-complicated, and Senate President Peter Courtney said he expects the Legislature to be dealing with it for the next 10 years.
Thirteen marijuana bills already have been introduced in the 2015 Legislature, and more are on the way after Oregon voters last fall legalized marijuana for adult use.
Colorado and Washington state also have legal marijuana. Oregon and a number of other states previously had approved medical marijuana. Meanwhile, outdated federal policy outlaws any use of marijuana anywhere.
On the national level, Congress and the Obama administration must reconcile federal policy with what’s happening in states.
In Oregon, lawmakers such as Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, would prefer the Legislature do nothing and simply respect the voters’ will in passing Ballot Measure 91.
But a do-nothing approach is impractical. Rare is the law that is perfect from the first go-round. Legislators often must fix unintended consequences from their previous work. Remember the debacle about school-zone speed limits, which the Legislature had enforced even at 2 a.m.?
The Legislature has a duty to work through the intricacies of marijuana policy, just as previous legislatures had to fix glitches in such voter-approved initiatives as the death penalty, lottery, assisted suicide and property tax limits. It becomes critical that every Oregon legislator invest in learning about marijuana science and policy, and especially how legalization has played out in Washington and Colorado.
“We all will be voting on marijuana,” Courtney said of this year’s legislators, “not only in 2015, probably 2016 and probably at least two or three more sessions afterwards to implement this measure. It is a voluminous measure that was placed on the ballot. Voluminous.”
The issues include safety, taxation and sufficient-but-not-overdone regulations.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Under the ballot measure, recreational marijuana will be taxed. Oregon’s medical marijuana is not. Thus, medical marijuana will be less expensive.
Black-market marijuana will remain even cheaper, so the illicit marijuana plantings — often on federal forestland in Southern Oregon and Northern California — are unlikely to disappear.
Legislators widely believe that medical marijuana cards have been abused and the program should be tightened. Eliminating the program is one possibility, but that would amount to adding a tax for current medical marijuana patients. If the medical marijuana program is continued, how will it be aligned with recreational marijuana?
REGULATION: The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which will establish the detailed rules, is holding listening sessions around the state.
Growers and sellers must be regulated, and testing centers must be certified. Marijuana varies widely in types and strengths, which is why it should be tested and labeled.
TAXES: Oregon’s state tax will be less than Washington’s, which may attract out-of-state buyers. Kotek said that already happens with out-of-state buyers of Oregon cigarettes.
Some Oregon cities want to add local marijuana taxes. Such taxes would exacerbate the price difference between legal and black-market marijuana. The Legislature must decide whether to allow municipal taxes.
CHILDREN: Marijuana poisoning cases involving children, although still a relatively small number, have risen sharply since legalization occurred in Washington and Colorado. Oregon legislators want to delay approval of edible marijuana items, which might be attractive to children.
DRIVING WHILE HIGH: Unlike breath and blood alcohol tests for drunken driving, there are no reliable, uniform tests that quickly indicate whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Instead, law enforcement officers need extensive training in making those judgments.
Appropriate police procedures must be developed and instituted.
BUSINESS: Legal marijuana has not created the consistent business boom in Washington that many expected. At first, Washington had too few distributors. Then it had too many, causing a number to go out of business. To what extent should Oregon leave business approval, location and viability to the marketplace and municipalities to determine?
“There are a tremendous amount of details to be worked out,” Kotek said.
The Legislature must be wary of overreach, of meddling with measure. But it would be unconscionable for lawmakers to leave these issues unresolved.
For government information about Oregon’s marijuana plans, go to marijuana.oregon.gov.
Whom to contact
You can write to the governor, legislative leaders and Marion and Polk County legislators at their office number at the state Capitol, 900 Court St. NE, Salem, OR 97301-4045. Or use the following phone numbers and e-mail addresses:
Gov. John Kitzhaber: Room 254; (503) 378-4582; fax, (503) 378-4307; www.governor.oregon.gov
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem: S-201; (503) 986-1600; [email protected]
Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland: S-223; (503) 986-1700; [email protected]
Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day: S-323; (503) 986-1950; [email protected]
Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas: S-305; (503) 986-1712; [email protected]
Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer: S-307; (503) 986-1713; [email protected]
Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton: S-401; (503) 986-1709; [email protected]
Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem: S-301; (503) 986-1710; [email protected]
Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, D-Portland: H-269; (503) 986-1200; [email protected]
House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, D-Eugene: H-295; (503) 986-1414; [email protected]
House Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte: H-395; (503) 986-1400; [email protected]
Rep. Paul Evans, D-Salem: H-281; (503) 986-1420; [email protected]
Rep. Jodi Hack, R-Salem: H-385; (503) 986-1419; [email protected]
Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem: H-284; (503) 986-1421; [email protected]
Rep. Vic Gilliam, R-Silverton: H-479; (503) 986-1418; [email protected]
Rep. Betty Komp, D-Woodburn: H-273; (503) 986-1422; [email protected]
Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio: H-388; (503) 986-1417; [email protected]
Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer: H-373; (503) 986-1425; [email protected]
Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Dallas: H-378; (503) 986-1423; [email protected]
Rep. Jim Weidner, R-Yamhill: H-387; (503) 986-1424; [email protected]
Other legislators: Call (503) 986-1000 or (800) 332-2313. The names, addresses and office phone numbers for all legislators are at www.oregonlegislature.gov, or e-mail [email protected]
To comment on federal marijuana regulations, contact the Obama administration and Oregon’s congressional delegation:
President Obama: White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20500; White House Comment Office, (202) 456-1111, fax, (202) 456-2461; whitehouse.gov
Sen. Ron Wyden: 221 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510, (202) 224-5244, fax, (202) 228-2717; 911 NE 11th Ave., Suite 630, Portland, OR 97232, (503) 326-7525, fax, (503) 326-7528; 707 13th St. SE, Suite 285, Salem, OR 97301, (503) 589-4555, fax, (503) 589-4749; wyden.senate.gov
Sen. Jeff Merkley: 313 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510, (202) 224-3753, fax, (202) 228-3997; 121 SW Salmon St., Suite 1400, Portland, OR 97204, (503) 326-3386, fax, (503) 326-2900; 495 State St., Suite 330, Salem, OR 97301, (503) 362-8102; merkley.senate.gov
Rep. Kurt Schrader: 2431 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-5711, fax, (202) 225-5699; 544 Ferry St. SE Ste. 2, Salem, OR 97301, (503) 588-9100, fax, (503) 588-5517; schrader.house.gov
Rep. Earl Blumenauer: 1111 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-4811, fax, (202) 225-8941; 729 NE Oregon St., Suite 115, Portland, OR 97232, (503) 231-2300, fax, (503) 230-5413; blumenauer.house.gov
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici: 439 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-0855, fax, (202) 225-9497; 12725 SW Millikan Way, Suite 220, Beaverton, OR 97005, (503) 469-6010, fax, (503) 469-6018; bonamici.house.gov
Rep. Peter DeFazio: 2134 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-6416, fax, (202) 226-3493; 405 East 8th Ave., Suite 2030, Eugene, OR 97401, (541) 465-6732, fax, (541) 465-6458; house.gov/defazio
Rep. Greg Walden: 2185 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-6730, fax, (202) 225-5774; 14 N. Central Ave., Suite 112, Medford, OR 97501, (541) 776-4646, fax, (541) 779-0204; house.gov/walden
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