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Tell Your Oregon Reps To Support Will Of The Voters On Measure 91

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oregon measure 91 legalization new approachAfter reading this story in the Statesman-Journal, I think it is vitally important for supporters of Oregon’s Measure 91 to contact their state representative and senator and urge them to respect the will of the voters on Measure 91.  You can find your legislators here and then send them an email or letter.  There are four basic areas the League of Oregon Cities and other lobbyists are fighting us over:

  • Right of cities to establish local marijuana taxes;
  • Right of cities to establish bans on marijuana licenses without a vote of the people;
  • Establishment of a blood-draw ng/ml THC DUID limit (like Washington);
  • Abolishing or severely curtailing the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

One Democratic Senator is already claiming the people just wanted legalization and they don’t care too much about Measure 91’s “fine print”.  A Republican Senator is already asking about abolishing the medical marijuana program.  Don’t let legalization get twisted by lobbyists, law enforcement, and the legislature – speak up NOW!

Senator Dembrow & Representative Smith Warner,

My name is Russ Belville and I am a constituent of yours who worked very hard to see that Measure 91, our initiative to legalize marijuana, passed statewide.

Now I am very troubled by reports that the legislature is being lobbied by the League of Oregon Cities and others to subvert the will of the voters by making changes to Measure 91 that are completely inconsistent with Measure 91.

In particular, Senator Lee Beyer is quoted in the Statesman-Journal saying that November’s vote in favor of marijuana meant Oregonians support recreational usage and not that they support the specific details of Measure 91. His assumption is that most voters “didn’t pay a heck of a lot of attention” to or read all the fine print in the proposal.

I assure you, the fine print in the proposal is exactly what Oregonians supported, for it is within that fine print that Oregon learned the lessons from the process of legalization taking place in Washington and Colorado.

At least 70 Oregon cities passed local taxes on marijuana prior to Measure 91’s passage. As you know, Measure 91 vests sole taxation authority over marijuana to the state and repeals and supersedes all previously passed local taxes. This is how we tax alcohol in Oregon, yet cities believe they should be able to tack on an extra tax for alleged “costs of regulation” that are already covered by Measure 91 and are never quantified by the cities.

The low $35/ounce state taxation is a lesson learned from the high taxation at multiple levels of production, processing, and retail and among multiple city, county, and state jurisdictions. In Washington and Colorado, the price of black market and medical marijuana is far lower than the overtaxed recreational price, leading to pot dealers in the parking lots of legal pot shops, undercutting the legal sellers. That’s exactly what we don’t want at our Oregon pot shops.

The right of localities to ban pot shops and other licensees is also enshrined in Measure 91, but only through a vote of the people. This was the lesson learned from the other two legalization states where city councils and county commissions banned pot shops of their own accord, ignoring the will of the voters in those locales that overwhelmingly supported legalization. Such bans also undercut the point of legalization by leaving the illegal pot dealers and the medical marijuana dispensaries as the only source for marijuana that all Oregon adults may legally possess and use.

The lack of a per se THC DUID limit, such as Washington and Colorado, is also a major reason I and others supported Measure 91. It’s not that we don’t want police stopping impaired drivers, regardless of reason for that impairment. It’s that there is no reliable testing for marijuana impairment through saliva, urine, or blood screening that is scientifically valid. Any limit the legislature would add would certainly convict innocent drivers of impairment for merely having high tolerances to marijuana.

Most importantly, Measure 91 explicitly mentioned three times that it changed the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in no way. Tens of thousands of patients and their caregivers would not have supported Measure 91 if it did change OMMA. Yet Sen. Fred. Girod is already asking “Can we do away with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program if we are going to legalize marijuana?”

There can be positive changes to streamline the production, processing, and retailing of marijuana to avoid two redundant supply chains. However, the right of patients to possess and cultivate more usable marijuana must be protected; there are some who absolutely cannot make do on the recreational limits of Measure 91. Furthermore, patients rights to home manufacture of edibles and concentrates should be preserved, as they often need those higher-potency items for proper medicinal effect.

I would warn you both not to assume the voters will be satisfied with any changes you make to Measure 91 because we’re simply happy with legalization. Please pledge to me your support of the will and intent of 71% of Multnomah County voters who understood that Measure 91 was crafted to avoid the pitfalls of Colorado and Washington. Please do not support any local marijuana taxes, allowing city councils / county commissions to ban without a vote of the people, creating any unscientific per se DUID standard, or major changes to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

Thank you.

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About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.