Oregon rolls into election with pot dispensaries measure
Voters will decide if the state should add more medical marijuana dispensaries and tax future and current dispensaries.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 21:40
Voters in Oregon will have an opportunity to vote on Measure 74, an initiative that would legalize dispensaries, allow the state to charge fees for licenses and sales, and create a fund to supply low-income people with marijuana. Backers say the dispensary system would generate jobs and revenue for Oregon. They say the measure would improve existing law, which permits people to use or grow medical marijuana under certain conditions but forbids storefront sales.
Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is seeking that office once again, favors the current medical marijuana laws. He says the weed has medical benefits for glaucoma, associated chemotherapy reactions and other pain-inducing sicknesses. However, Kitzhaber does not support Measure 74, which will increase the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. Kitzhaber says he is not convinced expanding the availability of medical marijuana is good for the state, saying oversight and control of the proposed program may bring new economic challenges.
Legitimate access to medical marijuana dispensaries is not the issue, says the former governor. The problem law enforcement is experiencing is the non-authorized growth and sale of the controlled substance that may be stemming from medical marijuana dispensaries.
Chris Dudley, another gubernatorial candidate in Oregon, said in an Oct. 9 news conference that he does not favor Measure 74. He says Portland does not need more dispensaries for medical marijuana.
Oregon could have 100 dispensaries within one year and 246 within four years if voters passed Measure 74, according to one state report on the measure's financial impact. The dispensaries could generate $20 million in state revenue in the first year alone, and the program would grow by about 35 percent a year.
As of July 2010, about 36,400 people in the state were registered as patients under the current medical marijuana program. The number of patients in each county loosely correlates with population, with some spikes in green-friendly regions. Backers of Measure 74 say Oregon can learn from the mistakes of other states — especially Colorado and California, where sparse or nonexistent regulations made abuses inevitable.
Where do other states stand on legalization?
Since 1973, 13 state legislatures — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon — have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. In each of these states, marijuana users no longer face jail time (nor arrest or criminal records, in most cases) for the possession or use of small amounts of marijuana. Internationally, many states and nations have enacted similar policies.
The question on voters' minds is whether the state should continue paying to house those convicted of possession, or to do the same for future offenders of marijuana laws, or to take advantage of the taxes generated as a result of the sale of medical marijuana. Opponents say Measure 74 would increase the use of marijuana, while proponents highlight the cost of the present marijuana laws on taxpayers.