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Bill Ending Cannabis Prohibition Introduced In Oregon

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oregon cannabisOn the heels of Colorado and Washington legalizing cannabis, the Oregon House Committee on Revenue has recently introduced a bill that would end cannabis prohibition by licensing, regulating and taxing cannabis similar to alcohol.  After legalization victories in two states and 47% of Oregon voters supporting a proposal that would have allowed the unlimited personal production and possession of cannabis last November, The Oregonian Editorial Board called on state lawmakers to craft a sensible legalization bill.  The editorial board was rightfully concerned that Oregon would be losing out on much-needed revenue to its northern neighbor.

And if business booms at Washington’s pot shops, as expected? Our neighbor to the north will collect millions of dollars in new “sin” taxes, with much of the money coming from Oregonians who’d be happy to keep their business — and taxes — in state if given the opportunity.

Losing out on all that revenue would be a pity. However, when policies diverge so widely in adjoining states — whether they govern marijuana or taxes - people move back and forth in pursuit of their interests. Want to stop the movement? Remove the incentives by leveling the policies.

The obvious policy response for Oregon is to legalize marijuana as Washington has done. Like the idea or hate it, it wouldn’t amount to a radical change. For all intents and purposes, Oregon legalized the casual use of marijuana years ago through that giant loophole known as the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. By taking the Washington approach, the state at least would be honest about what it’s doing and, perhaps, collect some cash in the process.

Some astute Oregon legislators appear to have heard The Oregonian (and common sense) loud and clear.  It is time to stop wasting hard-earned tax dollars on trying to prevent people from growing, selling and utilizing cannabis.  Instead of wasting money on cannabis prohibition, House Bill 3371 would establish a licensed and regulated industry that creates thousands of jobs and generates millions of dollars through licenses fees and excise taxes.

The bill takes good parts from both the Washington and Colorado models and crafts a proposal that will regulate and tax cannabis like alcohol, implementing safeguards to better keep marijuana out of the hands of children while also generating millions of dollars in revenue for education, public safety, substance abuse treatment and mental health services.  Unlike, Washington’s I-502, HB 3371 doesn’t establish a per se DUII law as it leaves the current DUII law alone.  Employment and landlord-tenant law are also left alone.  Like Colorado Amendment 64, the measure allows for small, personal cannabis gardens.  The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) will handle inspections and enforcement, tasked with ensuring that cannabis retail outlets are checking IDs and keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors.

The timing is right for Oregon to end cannabis prohibition.  Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis with strong majorities and support is increasing rapidly among Oregon voters.  Passing HB 3371 is a good policy for the state as it will expand individual rights; raise funds for much-needed services; save money by diverting resources currently spent on marijuana enforcement; and allow police to focus on more important priorities, like violent crime.  Just like alcohol prohibition, cannabis prohibition is a failure that is robbing good citizens of their tax dollars, without accomplishing any of its intended goals.  I commend the House Committee on Revenue for taking up this important issue and look forward to helping move this bill forward.

Article originally appeared on National Cannabis Coalition and republished with special permission

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About Author

Anthony Johnson is the director of New Approach Oregon, the PAC responsible for Measure 91, that ended cannabis prohibition for all Oregon adults in 2014. In addition to helping organize the International Cannabis Business Conference & the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, he also serves as a Board Member of the National Cannabis Coalition, working to legalize cannabis across the country and Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, an organization specifically working to end cannabis prohibition in Missouri. As President of the University of Missouri Law School ACLU Chapter, Anthony co-authored the measures that legalized medical cannabis possession and decriminalized personal possession for all adults within the city limits of Columbia, Missouri, in 2004. Following law school, Anthony practiced criminal defense for two years before working full time in the political field to help improve and protect civil liberties. You can follow Anthony on Twitter and also friend him on Facebook by following the links below as he posts mostly about civil liberties and politics with dashes of sports, music, movies and whatnot.

  • sainter

    and if obama did not make it clear enough for you,he has secretly said when he leaves office ,he kissing prohibition goodbey,so i can get high without a medical recomondation, but even when the repubs repeal his law,he will just go down the street in dc .and have his buddies getit,….

  • sainter

    im puttin a silver bullet through all ur stupid greedy laws ,FREE CANNIBIS ON ME ,for the low income cronically in need. f/ur dispencorys budorgum@gmail.com a not 4 profit institution.

  • Brandon

    I guess being on the rise since the election could make sense. If people were concerned about how DUIIs would be handled, and minors getting possession more easily. I haven’t heard too much news about anything bad happening in Washington yet. Just one person who decided to use marijuana and than got pulled over for a DUII. I would like some links showing that support in Oregon has risen.

  • nanners86

    As much as I wish with every fiber of my being that this is the case, I have a hunch that it is not so rosy and happy as you suggest. I mean come on, it’s been demonized and illegal for decades, now that’s being turned upside down overnight? Nah, it’s too good to be true. Someone among the nameless, faceless “Higher Ups” has decided that legalizing cannabis is going to be more profitable at this time than keeping it illegal. I truly believe that is one of the possible motivations of this supposed “mass movement” and so I’m trying to keep my feelings of joy in check when I hear about recreational marijuana use being legalized.

  • nanners86

    Thank you for outlining all of those details for us, I’m very grateful. It’s so good to know people are waking up to the truth about cannabis.

    I am curious however, how recently did Lt. Gov. Newsom in CA say that? Because currently there is yet ANOTHER federal crackdown taking place here in San Diego against medical marijuana dispensaries and also on mobile/delivery services for medical marijuana. We have had enough.

  • incogneatow

    It’s always been about the money, unfortunately most of the money was coming out of taxpayer pockets and into the hands of the DEA, corrections industry and law enforcement suppliers.

    Now it’s a brand new era where we can begin to dismantle the oppressive state and federal systems that punish and destroy lives, families and communities by replacing them with a sensible system of regulation, taxation, education, and health care while also restoring personal liberty. There is nothing wrong with caring for each other in the best way possible, it beats the hell out of incarceration.

    It was never the responsibility of the federal government to legislate morality. It is time for us to take back our personal freedoms at the state level, by supporting politicians that understand this.

    I can see those nefarious cadres of autocratic tyrants within the federal government employing think tanks to find other ways of subverting our liberty in order to retain power. Sadly it is too late, we know who you are, you are no longer relevant, your time is up.

    The most significant aspect of cannabis law reform is that were able to do so, peacefully…

  • bolsovi

    I’m really happy about this but can you cite data showing rising support for legalization in Oregon since the election?

  • Legally regulated (manufacture, distribution and consumption) of marijuana is coming to a state near you in 2013:

    CALIFORNIA

    “These laws just don’t make sense anymore. It’s shocking, from my perspective, the number of people that we all know who are recreational marijuana users… these are incredibly upstanding citizens: Leaders in our community, and exceptional people.”

    —Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (preparing the way for Governor Jerry Brown to initiate proceedings to legalize and regulate marijuana through the state legislature)

    HAWAII

    On January 18th, 2012, House Speaker Joseph Souki and majority leader Scott Saiki introduced legislation that would allow people 21 or older to buy possess and consume small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The bill also authorizes marijuana retail stores and cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities.

    Recent polls show that Hawaii residents are increasingly in favor of ending cannabis prohibition, the most recent found that 57% of Hawaii voters believe marijuana should be regulated, taxed, and legal for adults.

    MAINE

    Maine’s legislature is moving on a legalization-and-regulation bill that could bring the state $8 million a year in new revenue.

    ”The people are far ahead of the politicians on this. Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen the culture shift dramatically.”

    —Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, District 120 (Occupation: Public Relations Consultant)

    NEW YORK

    “Today, marijuana possession is the number one arrest in New York City.” citing the harmful outcomes of these arrests – racial disparities, stigma, fiscal waste, criminalization – and calling on the legislature to act: “It’s not fair, it’s not right. It must end, and it must end now.”

    —New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

    NEVADA

    “Thinking we’re not going to have it is unrealistic. It’s just a question of how and when”

    —Assemblyman Richard (Tick) Segerblom of Las Vegas, elected to the Nevada State Senate in 2012

    OREGON

    “We have decades of evidence that says prohibition does not work and it’s counterproductive. it’s a matter of dollars and common sense. There’s a source of revenue that’s reasonable that is rational that is the right policy choice for our state. We are going to get there on legalization.”

    —Peter Buckley, co-chair of the Oregon state legislature’s budget committee.

    PENNSYLVANIA

    “Like alcohol, legalization and regulation will make marijuana safer. Each year we not only waste a similar amount ($325.36 million), we leave several hundred million dollars on the table in taxes that we do not collect because marijuana is illegal, rather than regulated and taxed. This horrific policy must end. It is a moral imperative that Pennsylvania wakes up and ends prohibition now.”

    —Democrat State Sen. Daylin Leach, while announcing plans to introduce legislation that would legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania.

    RHODE ISLAND

    Rhode Island is also expected to legally regulate marijuana through the state legislature instead of a popular referendum.

    ”Our prohibition has failed, Legalizing and taxing it, just as we did to alcohol, is the way to do it.”

    —Rep. Edith Ajello, chairs the House Committee on Judiciary and is a member of the House Oversight Committee.

    VERMONT

    Two bills that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana have recently been introduced in both houses of the Vermont legislature. The Senate bill (#48) would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot by those 21 and over, while the more far-reaching House bill (#200) would decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces and the cultivation of to two mature and seven immature marijuana plants. In November 2012, the state’s Democratic governor, Peter Shumlin, cruised to re-election while strongly backing marijuana decriminalization.

    ALASKA

    Most Alaskans already have a clear view of things from their own back garden. Personal use and possession of Marijuana in Alaskan homes has been effectively legal since 1975.

  • pablo

    Very good , is time to stop this madness , mariguana is the most gentle culture , Legalize one for all..

  • stellarvoyager

    That is excellent news!