In two months’ time the Oregon State Legislature is going to take a vote to legalize and regulating recreational marijuana. While possession and use of pot is illegal under federal law in the United States, 20 states in the country already permit its use by patients who have a doctor’s prescription. Dubbed as Measure 91, the proposed initiative will allow adults in Oregon to possess marijuana, which would be up to eight ounces at home and one ounce in a public location.
At present, the state allows use of cannabis only for medicinal purposes. The Medical Marijuana Program which started as early as 1998 had already made pot user-friendly by legalizing the dispensaries. At last count, Medical Marijuana Cards have been unreservedly issued to about 65,000 Oregonians. The program had been operating in a legal gray zone until 2013 when the state’s lawmakers passed a law to regulate them.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon supports Measure 91 advocating that taxpayers’ money is presently being wasted on arresting and prosecuting marijuana users. Permitting cannabis will also allow its users access to straightforward regulations and taxation.
Early reports suggest that taxes will be levied by the producers at the point of sale, ranging from $5 to $35 per ounce depending on the potency. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will regulate and monitor this. While these tax rates appear too low, it is an incentive for people to shy away from the black market. Additionally, the sales tax on marijuana, which is an alien concept in Oregon, will be used for funding schools, education programs, drug prevention and law enforcement in the state. The Oregon State Financial Estimate Committee believes that if voters to legalize recreational marijuana, the state could generate tax revenues of close to $40 million annually.
Oregon will be following in the footsteps of Washington State and Colorado, which have already legalized cannabis. A favorable vote to legalize recreational marijuana will allow Oregonians to grow their own crop. However opposition lobbyist Darrell Fuller believes that legalizing weed is not in the state’s best interest. Survey’s conducted among teens indicates an alarming percentage of youth who don’t regard consuming weed as particularly dangerous or believe in its harmful effects on brain development.
Allowing retail sale of recreational cannabis will make it easily accessible for underage children. Many believe this is not a concern of real consequence since legalization will merely add marijuana to the line of “adults only” products, which already contain alcohol and tobacco usage.
An encompassing legalization will also give rise to increased incidences of people driving under intoxication. This is a particularly knotty situation for the law enforcement officials given that there is no simple or reliable screening, which can be made for intoxication. The Oregonian pointed out, “There is no bong breathalyzer.”
On the Nov.4 ballot, supporters will vote for bringing a fresh perspective to marijuana policy in Oregon, support for honesty and convenience, rather than hoodwinking the legal system or simply driving across the Columbia River to Washington State. This will be Oregon’s second chance in the past two years for a vote to legalize recreational marijuana. In the same month, Alaskan voters will also decide the fate of decriminalizing recreational marijuana for adults while Washington, D.C. votes to legalize possession and home cultivation of marijuana.
By Nilofar Neemuchwala