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.