The Oregonian Editorial Board Wanted Lawmakers To Take Up Marijuana Legalization In Oregon. They Got Their Wish.
The day after Election Day 2012 was bitter sweet for me. On one hand, Colorado and Washington State had approved Amendment 64 and I-502 respectively, legalizing marijuana in two states in America. It was an amazing feeling waking up and knowing that marijuana prohibition was dying in those states. However, I was sad that my home state of Oregon wasn't joining them. I have said before, during, and after the election that if Oregon had just 1/5th the financial backing that Washington and Colorado had, Oregon would have joined those states. Or, if Measure 80 had reasonable limits on possession and cultivation (it had none!) of marijuana, we would have joined Colorado and Washington. Alas, hindsight is 20/20.
One thing that raised my spirits was an article that was posted on OregonLive.Com, which is the website for Oregon's largest media outlet, The Oregonian. This was not an article by a guest author, or a letter to the editor, or even a single Oregonian author, it was posted by The Oregonian Editorial Board. The title of the article was 'Oregon lawmakers should take up marijuana legalization.' I attended a meeting the same day the article came out with some of the most prominent marijuana activists in Oregon, and we all agreed, seeing The Oregonian come out with a pro-marijuana article was unheard of, and a pleasant surprise.
The Oregonian had never come out with a truly pro-marijuana article before that one, and hasn't since. There's the occasional 'balanced' article that comes out, and 'balanced' is being very generous. But most articles talk about 'pot' and 'weed' in a bad way, and The Oregonian even fully endorsed now disgraced, anti-marijuana carpetbagger candidate Dwight Holton for Oregon Attorney General in 2012 over a true Oregonian in Ellen Rosenblum (I think they are still cleaning the egg of their faces on that one). Below is a brief excerpt from the pro-marijuana article I am referring to:
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.
So guess what Oregonian Editorial Staff, what you wished for has become a reality in the form of House Bill 3371! Below are highlights of the bill, as outlined by National Cannabis Coalition Executive Director Anthony Johnson:
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.
I find it odd that The Oregonian hasn't covered the introduction of this bill, being that they specifically called for it and it had been introduced almost a week ago. If they had specifically called for the introduction of just about any other bill, and it was introduced, they would have been covering it from a positive standpoint almost daily, as they do with just about any other political topic. Why is marijuana legalization so different? Did the editorial staff think the idea sounded good at the time, and now that it's finally here they are having a hard time doing what they have never done before - support a sensible piece of marijuana legislation? I hope the article is in the works, and that we can expect The Oregonian to give it's full support of this bill's passage. It's great for Oregon, and The Oregonian should do everything it can to help. There is no larger media outlet in Oregon, and their support would have an impact on HB 3371 that can't be provided by anyone else.
To add to this article, I want to call out all national drug policy reform organizations as well. This is your chance to make things right by helping push Oregon over the top and legalize marijuana via the legislature. All of the organizations tout how awesome they are at lobbying. I know this because I read all their articles, get all their e-mails, and talk with a lot of their staff members from time to time. Put your money where your mouth is! The winds of change have been building in Oregon long before other states that currently have bills in their legislatures, and if you are helping them, help us too! The world will be a better place as a result!