Oregon Legislators: No to SB 542! Regulate Marijuana to Voters Will


Oregon Measure 91 was a well thought-out proposal to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. Just over 56% of Oregon voters supported the measure after four previous attempts at legalizing cannabis commerce failed at the ballot (two legalization and two medical). The local control and taxation issues were taken from Oregon alcohol statutes as any new regulated market coming out of the failed policy of prohibition would certainly look to the alcohol laws as a guide.

Just like alcohol, Measure 91 explicitly states that marijuana shall only be taxed by the state and that localities can only opt-out of licensed retail establishments through a vote of the people in a November general election; opting-out will cost localities their share of the 10% of tax revenue allocated to both cities and counties. These taxation and local control provisions are necessary to keep prices as low as possible (while still creating thousands of jobs and generating millions of dollars in new revenue for the state) so regulated businesses can compete with the unregulated, illicit market.

Unfortunately, the League of Oregon Cities and the Association of Oregon Counties are pushing Senate Bill 542, a measure that goes against the will of a majority of voters and undermines the state’s ability to curtail the illegal marijuana market. The Portland Tribune published an oped that I submitted, urging Oregonians and their representatives to oppose SB 542:

Senate Bill 542, now under consideration by the state Legislature, not only goes against the will of Oregon voters but also the priorities of our local, state and federal governments. The bill would exacerbate the illicit market by allowing localities to set their own tax rate, without any limitations. Taxing marijuana an additional 25 percent, 40 percent or even 100 percent would clearly encourage an underground market, as illegal dealers would be able to undercut licensed and regulated stores.


The people of Oregon have spoken; they want to put an end to the illicit market and want to generate millions of dollars for essential state services. The voice of the people should be heard loud and clear, from the halls of the state Capitol to the governor’s mansion.

Legislators should just say “no” to Senate Bill 542 and any and all proposals that go against the text of Measure 91 and the will of the voters. We won a better approach to marijuana. Now it’s time to finish the job and implement that better approach. Help us at: www.NewApproachOregon.com.

Oregonians have already spoken loud and clear on the failure of cannabis prohibition, passing a legalization measure by the greatest margin in any state. Oregon voters need to continue to make their voices heard and let their legislators know that elections have consequences and that voters want their will implemented before any unnecessary, drastic changes are made.

One of the benefits of the Oregon initiative system is that changes can be made if necessary, but clearly it hasn’t been proven that Measure 91 needs major changes that go against the text of the measure, such as allowing cities and counties to tax marijuana sales at any amount or undemocratically giving the power to opt-out of licensed businesses (and tax revenue) with the votes of just four or five council members or commissioners. If you want the Oregon Legislature to follow the will of the voters, contact the Committee on Measure 91 Implementation and make your voices heard.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.