Big supporter of Measure 91 that I was, which legalized recreational marijuana here in Oregon in November 2014, and avid supporter that I was of Democratic control of the Governor's office and state legislature, which also transpired in the last election, I optimistically assumed that Dems would implement marijuana legalization properly.
Let's make that, over-optimistically.
Because even though some legislators and government officials support both the intent and language of Measure 91, others are busily trying to undermine the 56% of Oregonians who voted in favor of legal cannabis.
The most egregious example of this is Senate Bill 964, which was passed by the state Senate on May 27. Among other things, it allows cities and counties to ban medical marijuana dispensaries without an automatic vote of the people -- something Measure 91 requires.
The Measure 91 folks, New Approach Oregon, explain why SB 964 is such a bad idea.
Senate Bill 964, sponsored by Democratic Senator Ginny Burdick and Republican Senator Jeff Kruse, will allow a handful of city council members and county commissioners to ban state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, without a mandatory public vote of the people.
This provision for medical marijuana businesses will hurt Measure 91’s voter-approved opt-out procedure, requiring a vote of the people, either in future legislation or future lawsuits. It is imperative that any opt-out procedure for marijuana businesses match the provision passed by over 56% of Oregon voters. Both The Oregonian and the Register-Guard have published editorials supporting a vote of the people.
Senate Bill 964 goes against the will of the voters and hurts the priorities of the state and even the federal government. Easily opting-out of state-regulated marijuana businesses will only exacerbate the illegal, underground market. Oregon voters want to stop treating marijuana as a crime and to bring as many people into a state-regulated system as possible; Senate Bill 964 goes against voters’ interests.
[Click here to find a list of House members to email and tell them "Vote No on SB 964"; there are a few semi-colons separating the names, though; I had to change those to commas when I copied and pasted the email addresses.]
It is indeed bewildering that state legislators would try to make medical marijuana more difficult to obtain than recreational marijuana. (I'm tempted to say "What were those legislators smoking?", but will refrain from doing so -- though, oops!, I just did.)
Consider: on the same day the Senate passed SB 964, the Oregonian reported that a plan to allow the sale of both medical and recreational marijuana in the current 200 medical marijuana dispensaries was greeted favorably by legislators and OLCC officials.
(The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is charged under Measure 91 with implementing regulations for the production, distribution, and sales of recreational marijuana.)
A concern, though, is that supposedly much of the cannabis produced by registered medical marijuana growers is finding its way into the black market. Maybe this is true; maybe it isn't. For the sake of argument, let's say that it is.
What would be some great ways to get that marijuana out of the black market and into legal distribution channels?
Well, it doesn't take a genius to come up with two obvious ways:
(1) Allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the many cities and counties that have prevented them from opening, taking advantage of a state law that allowed temporary bans until May 2015.
(2) Allow the sale of recreational marijuana in medical marijuana dispensaries as soon as possible.
Doing these things would give those growing medical marijuana additional outlets to sell their cannabis. The best way to get rid of the black market is to expand the "white market."
Yet SB 964 would do the exact opposite, forcing lots of medical marijuana cardholders to continue to get cannabis from unregulated sources, since 26 of Oregon's 36 counties and 146 cities have banned dispensaries and could continue to do so without a vote of the people under SB 964.
Also, the Oregonian story says that the OLCC Chair, Bob Patridge, is worried about allowing sales of recreational marijuana before the end of 2016 -- which would be two freaking years after Oregonians voted for Measure 91.
So Patridge and other misguided state officials/legislators want to support the marijuana black market after it is legal for the citizens of this state to possess cannabis on July 1, 2015. Where are they supposed to get marijuana between that date and late 2016?
From the Pot Fairy? By growing their own? From their local pot dealer? The latter options are much more likely than the first, unfortunately.
However, just as relatively few people choose to grow their own tomatoes, preferring to buy them in a store, so it is with marijuana. Which, I've heard, is rather tricky to grow. At least, in a high quality manner.
Thus the smartest thing to do would be this: encourage as many medical marijuana dispensaries as possible by forbidding cities and counties from banning them without a vote of the people, and allow the sale of recreational marijuana in those dispensaries soon -- October 1 was mentioned as a possible start date in the Oregonian story.
Sure, eventually a "seed to sale" tracking system for marijuana growers should be implemented.
Until marijuana is legal everywhere in the country, this seems to be needed to keep federal officials from freaking out about the sale of cannabis, which is still crazily classified as a Class 1 illegal drug. But isn't it better to have Oregonians buying their marijuana from state-licensed outlets rather than on the black market?
A commenter on the Oregonian story, Wt Buffalo, left an insightful lengthy comment that I'll include in full in a continuation to this post. Here's some excerpts that mirror what I've been saying.
So, if you really think that Oregon Medical Cannabis grows have an over abundance of cannabis for the Black Market, then why didn't you tap the OMMP growers for the already produced cannabis, ASAP? Or, sign them up to grow more immediately? That would Stop the cannabis inflow to the Black Market, as fast as anything. Dry up the supply for the Black Market and provide cannabis that could be watched, tested, inspected and regulated with contracts.
If Oregon uses the believed excess amount of OMMP produce cannabis for Recreational cannabis, wouldn't that be a much more efficient way to thwart the Black Market. Let the OMMP illegal growers legally produce cannabis for Recreational Cannabis Market. The vast majority of OMMP providers do not provide service illegally. You all think that there is already enough cannabis produced to provide the Black Market. Elusively, they are already producing enough cannabis, then use and test the cannabis for Medical and Recreational use.
Why wait so long to open Recreational Cannabis? The Legislator's and OLCC are costing the Oregon schools the revenues that could reduce class sizes. Providing 40% of the collected Cannabis taxes for many much needed programs, should have been ready by July 1, 2015, about two month's from now.
Give cannabis producers a place to market cannabis legally. Besides, the Black Market Cannabis producers are just laughing at you. The longer you delay the Recreational Cannabis Stores, the more $$ they make. They are also laughing about how the Legislator's and OLCC is making such a self-inflicted mess of M91. The Black Market growers are going to continue to produce cannabis for the rest of the country laughing.