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Will Oregon Be The First State To Legalize Marijuana Via The Legislature?

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oregon house bill 3371 marijuana legalization judiciary committeeHistory was made at the Oregon Legislature today, when House Bill 3371 became the first Oregon cannabis legalization measure to have a hearing and pass out of a committee.  The bill passed out of the committee 6-3, with one Republican, Wayne Krieger, joining the committee’s 5 Democrats.  The bill now moves onto the House Committee on Revenue.

I am honored to have testified on HB 3371, a proposal to regulate and tax marijuana similar to how the state handles alcohol today.  I was joined by the bill’s primary drafter, David Kopilak, an attorney for Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt; and John Horvick, a pollster for DHM Research.  Also, written testimony in support was submitted by David Lesh, a former Multnomah County Prosecutor; Shelley Fox-Loken, a former corrections officer and current member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; and US Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

Only one representative for the Oregon Sheriff’s Association spoke in opposition.

From the Statesman Journal:

“Marijuana legalization is coming to Oregon sooner rather than later,” said Anthony Johnson of Portland, an activist who leads New Approach Oregon. “It makes sense to regulate marijuana like alcohol and for the Legislature to take the lead on the issue and make sure sensible regulations are in place.”

But Sheriff Pat Garrett of Washington County spoke for the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, which opposes House Bill 3371.

“This act will not make the problems of marijuana abuse go away,” he told the House Judiciary Committee.

Most voters, politicians and policy makers understand that cannabis legalization is coming to Oregon, sooner than later.  The Oregon Legislature can take the opportunity to lead on the issue and craft a measure that contains their preferred regulations and tax structure.  If the Oregon Legislature doesn’t take the lead, then activists will put a different legalization measure on the ballot with fewer regulations and less tax revenue.  Hopefully, Oregon legislators will pass House Bill 3371 or refer the measure to the voters in November 2014.  We shall keep you posted here at NCC.

My complete written testimony in support of HB 3371:

Oregon House Judiciary Committee:

I represent New Approach Oregon, a coalition of local and national activists that favor smart marijuana reform and have come together to advocate for HB 3371.  Please pass House Bill 3371, a measure that will regulate and tax marijuana similar to alcohol and allow for the production of industrial hemp, onto the House Committee on Revenue.  The bill will generate new revenue to help support critical public services and free up limited law enforcement resources for more important priorities, like violent crime.

Marijuana prohibition, like alcohol prohibition, costs taxpayers too much money and enriches criminal organizations.  It is time to take a new approach on marijuana and replace prohibition with a sensible regulatory and taxation framework, especially since Washington recently legalized marijuana.  The Oregonian Editorial Board spoke for a majority of Oregonians when it urged the legislature to take the lead on this issue, stating that, “Our neighbors 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.”

Under HB 3371, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) will license and regulate the state’s marijuana industry, as the agency will be empowered with the regulatory and tax-collection authority it is currently provided under the state’s alcohol model.  This new industry will create much-needed jobs and generate millions of dollars in new revenue for the state, while also saving millions in law enforcement and court costs.  The bill allocates 40% of revenue for education, 20% for law enforcement, 20% for the General Fund and 20% for mental health and substance abuse services.

While empowering the OLCC to effectively regulate marijuana, HB 3371, also maintains strong, sensible regulations.  Usage of marijuana by minors under 21 years of age will still be illegal and the OLCC will be tasked with ensuring that retail outlets don’t provide to minors, just as the agency does with alcohol.  Additionally, marijuana may not be distributed within 1,000 feet from schools, public use is prohibited, DUI laws remain and employers are still free to implement Drug Free Workplace policies. The bill also provides the OLCC the power to implement new rules and regulations as needed.

House Bill 3371 will also allow Oregon farmers to produce industrial hemp, a low-potency form of marijuana with many uses, such as paper, fiber and textile products.  Ending hemp prohibition will provide our farmers with a sustainable, profitable new crop while creating jobs across multiple business sectors in Oregon.

It is inevitable that marijuana prohibition will be repealed in Oregon, likely sooner rather than later.  House Bill 3371 provides the Oregon Legislature the opportunity to lead on the issue and craft a law that makes sense for Oregonians—a measure that not only generates revenue, but also better utilizes our law enforcement resources.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this bill,

Anthony Johnson

Executive Director, New Approach Oregon

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation

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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.